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Blues scandal GAA chiefs vow to 'pursue' any Dublin players who breached lockdown for secret training session

At least nine Dublin players were pictured at a secret training session yesterday

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Dublin GAA players at secret training session

Dublin GAA players at secret training session

Dublin GAA players at secret training session

The GAA has voiced its "extreme disappointment" after at least nine Dublin football players were pictured in a secret training session yesterday in breach of Covid-19 regulations.

In a statement issued by Croke Park, a spokesperson on behalf of the organisation said:

"It is with frustration and extreme disappointment that the GAA acknowledges reports today of a potential breach of both our own Covid guidelines and those of the Government relating to the restrictions in place around team training."

The statement comes after a group of players from the Dublin senior football squad were photographed taking part in a secret dawn training session yesterday at Innisfails GAA Club.

Just 12 hours before the training session, Croke Park issued a circular to all clubs and counties, warning that any breaches of the current ban on collective training could put the GAA's overall plans for a return "in serious jeopardy".

The statement continued: 'Less than 48 hours ago, the Association reiterated its commitment to these current guidelines and called for continued compliance in the weeks ahead.

‘The GAA will pursue the allegations with the units in question at the earliest opportunity and will invoke any necessary disciplinary processes as appropriate.'

The organisation also said that while they acknowledge the 'overwhelming majority of Counties and Clubs have complied in an appropriate and responsible way' with Covid regulations, they called on all members to 'uphold the integrity of the Association' in order to play their part in thwarting the virus to ensure a return to activity as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, former GAA president, Seán Kelly, has said Dublin players who broke coronavirus lockdown restrictions should receive a “formal sanction” that the GAA needs to respond “strongly”.

Speaking of the incident on Newstalk Breakfast, he said: "If it is true, it is surprising and very disappointing, especially coming from the six-in-a-row Dubs. There is a responsibility with that accolade to give a good example.”

He added: "Every club in every county in the country are probably frustrated they can't get back out on the field but there is a roadmap there. The GAA have outlined the guidelines and everyone will have to stick by them.

"I think the GAA will certainly have to look at it very strongly and you have to be consistent in the way you apply the rules."

He also said that Covid-19 regulations must apply to everyone, even if you are "All-Ireland champions or just at the bottom of the ladder.

"This is a serious situation, and hopefully it was a once off breach that won't happen again, because if it goes without some form of formal sanction then others will say 'why can't we do the same?'

The gathering at a GAA pitch in north Dublin was attended by at least nine players and involved a series of group training drills.

The players, including several household names from the six-in-a-row All-Ireland champions, were photographed after convening shortly before 7am for what appeared to be a non-contact session.

Among those pictured taking part in the 'dawn run' were reigning Footballer of the Year Brian Fenton and two-time All Stars Jonny Cooper and Brian Howard.

The session followed the Government's announcement earlier on Tuesday that senior inter-county panels will now be allowed to resume training from April 19, with a view to commencing the Allianz Football and Hurling leagues in May.

Whereas there have been unconfirmed rumours of other county squads breaking the current training ban in recent weeks, this is the first evidence of such an event taking place - and it implicates the biggest team in Gaelic games.

In pre-pandemic times, Innisfails was regularly used by the Dublin footballers as their base for early-season training.

The venue is located down a small cul-de-sac off the Malahide Road, close to Balgriffin Cemetery.

Players were seen arriving before first light for the session, which was overseen by a coach.

They took part in a series of fitness drills and practised ball skills while a man appeared to keep watch close to the entrance to the facility.

Dublin chairman Michael Seavers replied that "it's the first I know of it" when contacted yesterday afternoon, and he could not be reached when the Herald followed up with a further call last night.

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