WE WITNESSED a return of some competitive action at the weekend and suddenly there was a feeling of Spring in the air.
The Gaelic footballers are always first out of the blocks with the provincial tournaments, but the hurlers from a few counties also tasted some low-key action.
I knew it would not take long for the clamour to abandon the Winter training ban to emerge in 2011. It is a subject we can expect to hear a lot more about in the months ahead.
The background to the implementation of the Winter training ban is well known and remains relevant today. It seems to have been forgotten by opponents of the ban that it was passed by a GAA Congress. It, therefore, follows that the rule can only be rescinded by a future Congress.
It will be interesting to see if there is an attempt to reverse the ban at the April Congress in Mullingar. I have not seen the motions submitted by the various counties. I await with interest their review in two weeks time.
The current ruling is far from perfect as it is almost impossible to legislate for two different codes in which the circumstances clearly vary across the 32 counties. A good example is the comparison between the Kilkenny hurlers and footballers.
The hurlers clearly need a break over the November/December period, whereas the footballers badly need those two months to prepare for the upcoming provincial competition and the National League. Tweaking the current rule to accommodate such a scenario should be possible.
"The only people in the GAA who seemed anxious to enforce this training ban were Croke Park people," was the comment from a well-known journalist in a recent newspaper article.
That was a remarkable statement. It took a majority of those attending Congress to pass the new rule, so where does that leave County Officers from around the country who must ensure their counties adhere to the rules of the GAA? When GAA officials in Croke Park defend the Winter training ban they are simply promoting adherence to GAA rules.
They are entitled to expect support from officials around the country.
As with every GAA rule or regulation, if you don't like it there is a pretty simple process to getting it changed. All you need to do is convince enough Congress delegates that your proposal if better than what is currently in place.
When the GAA playing season is over, some players opt to take it easy over the following couple of months bar some gym work. Others opt to try their hand at soccer or rugby.
That may not always be the wisest option as players can forget that proper rehabilitation consists of a decent rest period also.
Burn-out suffered by young players was one of the primary reasons for implementing the training ban. Removing it would cause real problems for emerging stars. The argument has been made that these players continue to train and play with their colleges during November and December, so those most susceptible to injuries are getting no rest.
While that argument has genuine validity, imagine the pressure those players would be under if they had to double-up with Third Level activities and inter-county (and maybe even club) activities simultaneously. I heard many stories of players playing a colleges game in the afternoon and then heading off to attend a county training session.
What young emerging player would be brave enough to say to his inter-county manager: "Sorry I cannot make training tonight as I had a college game this afternoon." The fear of being dropped from the county panel is enough to make sure the player turns up for training irrespective of his physical well-being.
Maybe now that the playing season has recommenced the hullaballoo surrounding the Winter training ban will disappear from the sporting pages; disappear that is until November when it is due to next take effect all over again!
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