INTER-COUNTY managers are getting it in the neck even though the resumed season is still over three months away.
And much of it is down to a few throwaway lines from the GAA’s top table at the launch of the championship a week ago.
The contentious September 14 date for the return of county teams’ collective training in the middle of the club season has caused all sorts of friction.
As is always the case in a fallow time loose tongues begin wagging about so-and-so spotted doing this, that or the other, when they shouldn’t be.
There appears to be plenty of anecdotal evidence of county teams up and down the country flagrantly breaking the rule even though no one has claimed it publicly. Hence the void.
Croke Park officials were asked about this during the question and answer session following the unveiling of championship formats and fixtures.
Were they going to follow up on all this chit-chat and doing something about it if counties were in breach?
“We’d like people to call them out, but we’re not actually intending to impose any penalties,” said president John Horan.
But director general Tom Ryan didn’t rule out the prospect of sanctions at a later date, a remark which had a touch of the government and health advisors over mixed messaging guidance regarding aspects of the pandemic.
“We haven’t really looked at it in detail yet,” said Ryan.
“We’ll be asking people to abide by them because they’re the right thing to do. If there’s a second stage required in terms of sanctions of rules, penalties, and so on, we’ll look at that.”
The Club Players’ Association were first to respond in the public domain, when they suggested county teams who return to training before the scheduled date should be kicked out of both league and championship for the year.
And they added that a six-month ban should be imposed on the ‘persons in charge of the team’, presumably the managers. A meeting of the CPA executive was informed that they had ‘first-hand on the ground information that these breaches were happening’.
The obvious course of action would be to hand over their evidence to Croke Park and let them deal with it.
But, you suspect officials in the capital have more than enough on their plate as it is without drawing more work on themselves, again before a ball has been kicked or a sliotar struck in anger.
Yet, the pertinent question is whether they should have imposed a starting date at all if they were lukewarm at best about strictly imposing it?
The common sense approach would surely have been along the lines of once a county player is finished with his club, then he can return to the county fold.
But, if county managers are seen to be influencing players’ appearances during the club championships then that’s a matter for the clubs themselves, the players, and the county board officers to resolve.
The topic appeared to nosedive until well-known RTÉ hurling analyst Michael Duignan, a shrewd observer of the ancient art, spoke in his capacity as Offaly chairman on Newstalk Radio.
And he didn’t hold back either.
“The first thing I probably wouldn’t have done is put a date like September 14 in place when you are allowing clubs to play until the end of October or even later. It’s creating that overlap,” he said.
Duignan also called for county teams to be thrown out of the championship if in breach.
But, he reserved his most stinging comments for inter-county managers, GAA’s hierarchy and county-boards for allowing it to happen.