'It's high time the GAA grew a pair of balls' - Duignan on inter-county teams breaking training ban

The Offaly chairman has suggested that teams who break the rule should be removed from the championship.

Offaly chairman Michael Duignan [file photo].
Offaly chairman Michael Duignan [file photo].
Image: Tom O'Hanlon/INPHO

MICHAEL DUIGNAN HAS called on the GAA to “grow a pair of balls” in relation to inter-county teams who resume training before their scheduled return date in September.

The association announced last week that no penalties will be imposed on county teams who begin training before 14 September. Instead, they are encouraging people to “call them out” if they see teams breaking this rule.

Speaking at the release of the GAA fixture plan for hurling and football in 2020, the director general Tom Ryan didn’t rule out the prospect of penalties coming into play if they see fit at a later date.

Offaly GAA chairman Michael Duignan however, feels the GAA must take stronger action with this and consider throwing teams out of the championship if they break the training ban.

“The first thing I probably wouldn’t have done is put a date like 14 September in place when you are allowing clubs to play until the end of October or even later,” he said while speaking on Off The Ball last night.

“It’s creating that overlap.

“I would have said that any county that trains between now and that date, let’s say 1 September, give a window and then most players will either be in the semi-finals or finals by mid-September. If you’re out of it, let them back.

But if you are going to train as a county before then, as is reportedly going on around the country, I would throw those teams out of the Championship.”

“I don’t want the headline to be ‘kick them out’, but this is not skirting the rules. This, to me, is way more serious than that. We are just coming out of an unprecedented time in all of our lives, and we can’t talk out of both sides of our mouth here.

Source: Off The Ball/YouTube

“If community is going to be first and club is going to be first – it would have been easier to bring back inter-county, from a logistics point of view. The decision was made to go back with their clubs because every player is a club player.”

Duignan added that inter-county managers, as well as the GAA hierarchy, have not shown the correct leadership for players in making a safe return to action. 

“I’ll be honest, I’m disillusioned with the direction from inter-county managers, first of all, for forcing and putting pressure on their players to getting back training. Because players will do whatever they are asked to do.

“I am starting with inter-county managers, then county boards for allowing it to happen. I’m also disillusioned with Croke Park for not coming up with stricter sanctions. And the players themselves, and the GPA in particular, for not standing up for players and saying ‘we’re not accepting this’.

john-horan John Horan and Tom Ryan [file photo]. Source: Tom O'Hanlon/INPHO

“It’s hypocrisy, it’s dishonest and what sort of message are we sending to young men, who are supposed to be leaders of their community, at 22, 23, 24, 25 years of age?

“We are running courses for them, we are putting them through college through the GPA, and yet we’re telling them that being dishonest and hypocritical is the right way to go about your business. I think it is disgraceful what is happening around the country.

I think it’s high time that people in the GAA grew up and grew a pair of balls, and called it for what it is: you are either training with your county or you’re not training with your county.

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Duignan also expressed his disappointment at president John Horan and Tom Ryan for their stance on this issue while also applauding Offaly’s hurling and football bosses for their co-operation in letting clubs have adequate access to players.

“It’s breaking them [the rules] and I just feel so strongly after what we’ve been through.

“People have been sick and dying in our communities, we have all been locked up at home and where communities really should be first, our clubs – for once, let them have their players without them looking over their shoulders first.

“I have just come out of a meeting with [Offaly football manager] John Maughan and [hurling] Michael Fennelly there and we talk about these issues. It is so heartening to have two guys like these putting you and the county under no pressure.

“I’m saying to them: ‘Lads, I have no problem with you keeping in contact with your players, assessing injuries and seeing how lads are going.’

“This is club and county together – not club versus county. It’s not too late to address this issue.”

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