Can it be enforced?
Can you tell the difference between a team holiday and an overseas camp from an office at Croke Park? The GAA is bringing in a ban on foreign training for inter-county squads. They will also limit the duration of Ireland based camps. It is the latest move in an ongoing battle to keep April free for the club game. Is it a rule that can be enforced?
The crackdown follows a series of controversies since the establishment of the ‘club-only’ month. Both Armagh and Laois lost home advantage for one game in this year’s Allianz Football League. They were punished for breaking the current rules, which stop panels embarking on training weekends outside a ten-day period before a championship game. The Orchard County travelled to Portugal, Laois only went as far as Kerry.
The GAA's Management Committee investigated 17 counties last year. Only four were deemed to have a case to answer. All Ireland Champions Dublin jetted out to France. The Dubs insisted they did no training during an educational excursion and spoke of visiting war memorials. The Wexford hurlers argued their trip to Portugal was for 'recreational' purposes. There was widespread scepticism about the explanations, but with no evidence to the contrary, both teams avoided punishment.
Congress has changed the rules and counties now need permission from the Central Competitions Control Committee to hold extended training camps here or abroad. Armagh are back in Portugal this week, this time with the correct clearance. There are now plans for further changes. From 2020 onwards all overseas trips will be banned. Irish based camps cannot be longer than three days.
When arguing their case, Wexford insisted that last year’s trip did not involve the county board either in an organisational or financial sense. Joint-captain Lee Chin said their players organised it themselves. It is hard to see how the GAA can monitor a group of individuals travelling abroad together. Suspicions will arise when team mates do. Addressing those doubts one way or the other could be near impossible.