Government boost as full panels can attend League games

Wexford and Galway in action in last November’s Leinster hurling semi-final, one of many games for which only players listed on the matchday 26 were allowed to be present (Image: ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo)

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Inter-county panels across the country have been given a boost with the news that all players can attend games from the start of the National Leagues.

Following the resumption of inter-county games last October, only players who were chosen on the matchday 26 were allowed to travel to games under Level 5 restrictions, something which Limerick senior hurling manager John Kiely and Mayo football boss James Horan in particular took exception to at the time.

But the stance was relaxed for the All-Ireland finals in December with the full extended panel allowed to be present in Croke Park for the hurling and football deciders and Minister for Sport Jack Chambers has confirmed that that will remain the case for the coming season.

The Allianz Hurling League gets underway this Saturday followed by the football equivalent and the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League seven days later. The Lidl Ladies Football National League starts on May 23.

“Happy to confirm that non-playing members of inter-county panels may attend games when the league season starts,” said Minister Chambers on Twitter. “All members of panels make a significant contribution to the performance of their counties. Important this is recognised.”

Kiely had not been optimistic that full panels would be allowed to attend upcoming League games when speaking earlier this week.

On Monday, he commented: “At the moment we are operating off the premise that it will be the exact same as pre-All-Ireland final; that’s what we are expecting it to be.

“We might not necessarily agree with it, but that’s what we are expecting. I think from next Monday 50 can go to Mass, so maybe 50 can go to the Gaelic Grounds but listen, we’ll see.

“We just have to be patient, we are like the cattle at the door of the shed now at the moment busting to get to the front and to be the first out on to the pitch.

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“If we can get the next two weeks under our belt, I’d be hoping that things will revert back to maybe a level of restriction that we could manage to get the panelists to the matches.”

It has also been confirmed that inter-county challenge games can take place from next Monday though this will likely be of limited use to counties given that it comes just after or shortly before they play their first League games, with ladies football teams likely to be the main beneficiaries as they don’t return to competitive action for another two and a half weeks.

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