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Comment In terms of optics, seeing Dublin players 'training' is unforgivable and dare I say downright stupid

The Dubs broke the eleventh commandment on Wednesday morning - they got caught!

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A group of Dublin GAA players participate at unauthorised training session

A group of Dublin GAA players participate at unauthorised training session

A group of Dublin GAA players participate at unauthorised training session

DUBLIN GAA broke the eleventh commandment on Wednesday morning.

An eagle-eyed Irish Independent photographer snapped nine members of their football squad participating in a non-contact training session in the Innisfails GAA ground on Dublin’s northside.

And what’s the eleventh commandment - ‘Thou shalt not get caught’!

It would be incredibly naïve to think Dublin are the only inter-county GAA team to have broken the blanket ban on collective training

Stories abounded during the first lockdown of breaches by GAA teams and sadly the pattern continued in the New Year.

The Down and Cork football squads were found guilty of breaching the rules. Their respective managers Paddy Tally and Ronan McCarthy were banned for two and three months, respectively. Both will have served their suspensions by the time the new season is expected to start in mid-May.

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A group of Dublin GAA players participate at an unauthorised training session

A group of Dublin GAA players participate at an unauthorised training session

A group of Dublin GAA players participate at an unauthorised training session

GAA team managers have a long history of ignoring directives, County Boards have an equally appalling record in taking them to task, while the players’ union, the Gaelic Players’ Association, have buried their heads in the sand on the issue.

Coaches are obsessed with the notion that their rivals might be one step ahead of them in terms of their preparations. So, they bend the rules in what has turned into a race to the bottom.

One would have thought that the small matter of a global pandemic, which so far has caused the deaths of 4,687 people in Ireland, might bring about a change of attitude. Not so, it seems.

Of course, the GAA merely reflects society, so it’s hardly a surprise that a minority of its members simply ignore rules issued by both the Government and Croke Park.

We also need some perspective on what the Dublin players who gathered on a pitch which is situated between two graveyards did.

By all accounts, they participated in a non-contact open air training session which posed little threat to either their health or the well-being of others.

But in terms of optics, it was unforgiveable and dare we say downright stupid.

For starters, Dublin’s indiscretion is literally a kick in the teeth of the GAA’s top brass. After all, they are the game’s marquee team and would be expected to lead by example.

To be caught training less than 12 hours after the GAA Director General Tom Ryan and President Larry McCarthy 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’ is beyond belief. What were they thinking?

The GAA got the ultimate golden ticket from the Government last autumn when they gave the green light for the All-Ireland championships to go ahead, even though the 26 counties were in lockdown. This is the thanks they receive.

There was a lot of moaning in GAA circles, though in fairness not from Croke Park, about the decision of the Department of Health to remove inter-county GAA activity from the list of elite sports allowed continue during this most recent Level 5 lockdown.

This week, NPHET finally gave the green light for inter-county training to resume on April 19. But in the wake of what has happened, they could simply re-impose the ban on the grounds that the GAA are incapable of regulating their own organisation.

The GAA have no option but to throw the book at Dublin regardless of what excuse they come up with for the unauthorised session. Maybe all the players just coincidentally happened to head up to Innisfails GAA grounds at the same time on the same morning.

But this Dublin team hasn’t won eight All-Ireland titles in the last ten years by doing things off the cuff.

Judging by the tone of the first comment made by Croke Park on the controversy they are not best pleased.

“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.

"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,” said the statement.

Whatever happens Dublin have been the authors of their own misfortune.

Their County Board could nip the controversy in the bud by issuing a full apology and withdrawing the team from the National League.


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