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Dublin suspend manager Dessie Farrell for 12 weeks following players' Covid breach

The six-in-a-row All-Ireland champions’ county board has apologised ‘unreservedly’ for a ‘serious error of judgement’.

Dublin manager Dessie Farrell.
Dublin manager Dessie Farrell.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated Apr 1st 2021, 5:36 PM

DUBLIN GAA HAVE suspended men’s senior football manager Dessie Farrell for 12 weeks after a number of Dublin footballers were photographed attending a training session yesterday morning in breach of Covid-19 guidelines.

The Dublin County Board apologised “unreservedly” on behalf of its players and management, describing the training session as “a serious error of judgement”.

A statement released on Thursday evening read: “Dublin GAA acknowledge that, following an investigation this afternoon, there was a breach of Covid-19 guidelines yesterday morning.

The County Management Committee have suspended Dublin Senior Football manager Dessie Farrell for 12 weeks with immediate effect. The Dublin senior football management and players recognise that this was a serious error of judgement and apologise unreservedly for their actions.

An Garda Síochána said earlier on Thursday that it was in the process of making enquiries into reports of the regulation breaches after photographs of the morning training session were published in today’s Irish Independent.

The GAA also released a statement to confirm that they would pursue the allegations “at the earliest opportunity,” and would “invoke any necessary disciplinary processes as appropriate”.

In response to a query from The42, Gardaí said they would issue fines if potential breaches of the public health regulations are identified. 

“An Garda Síochána is making enquiries into reports of alleged breaches of Covid Regulations,” a Garda spokesperson said. 

“The Health Act 1947 (Section 31A-Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No.10) Regulations 2020, as amended, are currently in force.

“Regulation 11 places restriction on training events. Regulation 11 is not declared to be a penal regulation.

“If Gardaí identify potential breaches of the public health regulations (travel restrictions) a Fixed Payment Notice may be issued where appropriate.

“An Garda Síochána has no further comment at this time.”

Speaking on Newstalk’s Lunchtime Live today, Minister of State for Sports, Jack Chambers said action needed be taken. 

“I was really disappointed and frustrated to see those photographs,” said Minister Chambers. “Many GAA players are important role models.

“In fairness to many inter-county players, they’ve shown great leadership over the last 12 months in trying to reinforce the public health message in our response to Covid.

“So to see a training session in breach of the rules is extremely disappointing and surprising as well. I know the GAA has said in a statement in the last 48 hours that any breaches will be properly dealt with and we need to see that now.

“It absolutely is [a slap in the face to Dublin GAA supporters] and the majority of people are upholding the public health advice when it comes to really important occasions like funerals, like family gatherings – many people are isolated or frustrated and I accept people are in a very difficult space.

“If we see blatant breaches of the rules, that undermines the integrity of the broader public health messaging and that’s why I think many people will be very disappointed this morning when they read what has happened.”

Meanwhile, Alan Dillon TD, who is Fine Gael’s spokesperson for Tourism and Sport, also called for clarity on the incident.

“The photographic evidence in today’s Irish Independent of a number of Dublin footballers and a coach engaging in a training session is highly disappointing,” said the former Mayo footballer.

“An immediate investigation must take place and I believe it is up to Dessie Farrell and the Dublin management team to make a statement in relation to this breach of the public health guidelines. Innisfails GAA club must also clarify why training was allowed to take place on their grounds.


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“It is possible that the Dublin players shown training in the photos were there under pressure from the Dublin management team. We all understand the ultra-competitive environment of the Dublin panel but there is no excuse for an organised training session in breach of Covid guidelines.

“I would warn against any knee jerk reactions or indeed targeting of abuse at the players in question here. We need a full investigation to establish what happened.”

alan-dillon Alan Dillon during his playing days with Mayo. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We are currently at the highest level of health restrictions. The reason for this is simple; to save lives and keep people out of hospitals.

“Covid numbers are still very high and our frontline workers, made up of thousands of GAA members, are out working for us every day in hospitals, ambulances, schools, at garda checkpoints, shops and across a variety of sectors. They are our championship team and are playing a blinder.

“In the GAA world, the Dublin senior football team are the most revered. They have achieved the ultimate success repeatedly and are deservedly lauded for that. However with that comes responsibility in their role as GAA and sports ambassadors – responsibility to the GAA community, their clubs, to their families, supporters and to those who look up to emulate them.

“This training session in Malahide simply should not have happened. Organised training cannot take place currently – it is against the national health guidelines and GAA rules. It is particularly galling that this should take place mere days after a circular from the GAA made it clear that there should be no organised events or training.

“We are all eager to return to GAA pitches with clubs and counties. But we can only do so in a safe manner. Blatant breaches of the rules such as this one, will inevitably delay a return. By sticking to the guidelines and supporting each other, we can all get back to the sports we love.”

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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