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Down GAA facing investigation after players gather while two more counties subjects of official complaint



Down county chair John Devaney

Down county chair John Devaney

�INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Down county chair John Devaney

It is understood that at least two more counties are facing potential disciplinary action for breaking the collective training ban after complaints were submitted to Croke Park.

It follows a report that a gathering of Down players at the Abbey CBS, Newry playing fields drew a visit from the PSNI, who were alerted to activity there by a member of the public. The PSNI left satisfied that there was no public health case to answer, but the gathering did not comply with current GAA rules.

Down chairman John Devaney has said that up to 18 players didn't convene for training but to avail of an opportunity to learn what was required of them in the coming weeks. He accepted they should not have gathered.

The GAA had initially stipulated that inter-county collective training could not begin until January 15 but it has since been confirmed that no such training will be permitted this month.

With the Allianz Football and Hurling Leagues due to get under way on the weekend of February 27/28, the GAA remains hopeful that inter-county training might resume early next month but this remains unlikely.

“The team management wanted to avail of the opportunity to go through individual training programmes with some of the players, several of whom are potential new members of the panel, because they will not be expected to be together again for a while,” added Devaney.

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While GAA authorities had issued a very firm warning in relation to perceived breaches of collective training, it also decreed that “no outdoor gatherings are permitted on GAA property.”

The Abbey CBS pitches do not come under the auspices of the Down county board but Croke Park chiefs may decide to investigate the matter further.

The GAA has set up a sub-committee to investigate complaints, and while Down has not yet been the subject of a formal complaint, it is expected to be looked at by the sub-committee.

Footage of the Cork football squad undergoing fitness work on a beach is thought to be part of one complaint - manager Ronan McCarthy has since confirmed the weekend gathering on Youghal beach and insisted there has been full Covid compliance - while a second county, in Leinster, has also been contacted because of a potential breach by their football squad.

The GAA has outlined that it will deal with transgressions with a misconduct charge which could result in two-month suspensions.

At a meeting of county chairs last June, it was emphasised that the chairs, as much as team managers, would bear responsibility for any breaches, but in some cases those chairs are in the dark over the movements of the squads.

There may be greater resolve in Croke Park to come down hard on those who transgress, particularly in light of Waterford GAA's decision to strip Dungarvan of their intermediate football title after it was established that one of their players had played while awaiting a Covid-19 test result last October that was subsequently found to be positive.

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