As anecdotal evidence of inter-county teams returning to collective training for 2020 before the traditional permitted start dates grows, the GAA is taking a more relaxed attitude to training bans.
As in previous years, this weekend’s Super 11s received special dispensation from Croke Park to get around the inter-county training moratorium. The one-day event in New York sees Kilkenny and Tipperary come back to action over a month and a half before the usual return date for All-Ireland finalists on December 29, while Limerick and Wexford are also given the go-ahead to link up well ahead of December 8, the previous return date for All-Ireland semi-finalists.
In 2018, six of the 10 Liam MacCarthy Cup teams, including Galway and Kilkenny, who faced off in an exhibition game in Australia, were allowed together prior to their permitted 2020 collective training starts. A year earlier, Clare admitted using the occasion of the Super 11s in Boston as a pre-season training camp.
Next month, several pre-season competitions begin, some of which are expected to involve teams who might otherwise be breaching the winter training ban but for the backing of Central Council. In 2019, Limerick played two Munster Hurling League games prior to December 29 when they were officially supposed to return to training as they were going on a team holiday after Christmas.
Earlier this year, the training ban rule was amended to give Central Council the flexibility to change the moratorium window for counties year by year. In recent seasons, it has made small adjustments when the same round of matches have finished over different months to ensure fairness. The rewording of the rule reads:
Last year, GAA director of games administration and player welfare Feargal McGill said he was not in favour of provinces beginning pre-season competitions in December. He also admitted sanctioning inter-county matches during the winter ban “doesn’t help” the GAA’s commitment to player welfare.
A deviation of rule is expected to be put in place for plans to move the U20 All-Ireland football championship to February and March next year from the summer as according to Rule 6.45 U20 county teams can’t return to collective training and play challenge/tournament games until April 1.
The change of schedule is expected to mean U20 footballers won’t be precluded from joining their senior squads as has been the case the last two seasons.