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'This to my mind continues the trend in seriously questionable stories as well as legal jargon being used in the GAA'

Laois boss John Sugrue has come out against the sanction brought down on their squad.

Image: Patrick O'Connor/INPHO

LAOIS MANAGER JOHN Sugrue has written an open letter hitting out at the GAA’s decision to sanction their county side for breaching training camp rules by removing home advantage for one of their league games in 2019.

Laois are one of four county sides – along with the Armagh footballers and the hurlers of Waterford and Wexford – to be penalised.

GAA inter-county squads are not permitted to travel for training weekends after the league campaign, except in the 10 days before their first championship game.

Laois are being punished for going to a training camp in Kerry this year before their Leinster opener against Wexford.

But Sugrue has expressed his personal views on the Laois Today website in relation to the matter. He has pointed out the number of counties who were investigated for contravening the rule and that not sanctioning all counties ‘continues the trend in seriously questionable stories’.

The Dublin footballers travelled to France during the period but argued their trip was a historical pursuit and did not involve training. 

Sugrue hints at this case by stating Laois may have to ‘head back to Kerry and collect receipts from a visit to Daniel O’Connell’s birthplace to ensure we have a historical purpose as the main aspect of our trip’.

The Laois boss also outlines that they allowed their players to play a full month’s worth of club league games, that they supported the ‘Buy Irish’ ethos of the GAA by staying in the country.

Laois team during the national anthem The Laois players before this year's Munster final against Dublin. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The open letter in full reads:

“I am writing on my own initiative as manager of the Laois Senior Football team from 2018 and into 2019.

“My views are in no way tied to the sentiments of the players, County Board or the people of Laois though I feel they may agree on certain points.

“This situation has arose whereby as a direct result of breaking a GAA ruling we are to lose home venue on one of our National League games this year coming. There are a few points I feel are pertinent to highlight in this situation.

  • We as a County allowed our players play a full month’s worth of All County League games (4 games completed in the month with all players made available for games. Will the GAA please check what other counties did the same for their clubs?)
  • We as a management team under my leadership did take our team on a training weekend two weeks prior to our championship. We stayed within the country and spent our budget in Irish facilities staying with the ‘Buy Irish’ ethos of the GAA.
  • We felt that given the intensive nature of a training camp one week would not allow adequate physical or mental recovery from such an intensive training environment. (Our first championship game against Wexford was scheduled for 12 days after the ‘club month’).
  • The GAA identified that a number of counties (I believe up to 17) contravened this rule.
  • The GAA sent out an email to clarify what each county had done in this respect.
  • We stated straight up what we had done.
  • We got a punishment for our actions (which we were totally aware of prior to undertaking the trip).
  • We have no issue with OUR punishment.

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Finbarr Crowley celebrates at the final whistle Laois players celebrating after their Leinster semi-final win over Carlow. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“To flesh out this debate I feel that the situation where one county does the right thing and stands up for what it has done and takes the consequences is suffering far more than the county who cowers behind mistruths and gets off with any sanctions.

“This to my mind continues the trend in seriously questionable stories as well as legal jargon being used in the GAA to excuse ourselves from the consequences of our actions.

“2019 in this light appears like it will be a very entertaining year of creative stories used to navigate their way through the rule book. Counties might make it look a little like this:

  • We might undertake overnight stays in a hotel with a training camp within our own county.
  • We might book individual flights to two or three airports in a foreign region and then assemble for a hidden training camp (not a new initiative)
  • We will head back to Kerry and collect receipts from a visit to Daniel O’Connell’s birthplace to ensure we have a historical purpose as the main aspect of our trip.

“Further to the above three scenarios I am certain we will see a new raft of evasive stories thought up by those with far better imagination than mine for the 2019 rule evasion.

“It’s disappointing in this day and age that we find ourselves in a situation like this where rules that are brought in are not enacted with a gravity of leadership that shows we are intent on doing things better within our Association.

“Rules in any land are only as effective as those who enforce them. The other counties have not held up an appropriate level of moral standing in the field of sport, yet I believe that they are not overly responsible for this, rather they have been ushered this way with our rules and rule enforcement that encourage flouting.

“So to the crux of the current situation, is it too late to do anything corrective or will we just plough on ahead and further foster this type of activity in our Association?

“One rule for all means all should take the consequences for breaking that rule or else the rule is deemed ineffective and don’t enforce it at all in it’s current guise. We have no issue with OUR punishment.”

Yours in sport,

John Sugrue.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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