Irish Examiner Column July 24 2009

September 25, 2009

A new era dawns as GPA question nears end game

NEWS that the GAA and the Gaelic Players Association have agreed a formal process for dialogue in the next couple of weeks is hardly a shock, given recent faint noises in the background.

Distinguishing between hitherto ‘informal’ talks and the ‘formal’ discussions of the future may just be splitting hairs, or it may be a case of putting any Mayo footballers who rock up for the talks on notice that the dress code does not cover tributes to recently deceased music legends. You never know.

Given the long-standing frost between both sides, a sudden thaw was always unlikely, but as we pointed out here a few weeks ago, the end game has been in sight for some time, despite some sound and fury emanating from the player side. It was always likely when Pauric Duffy took over from Liam Mulvihill.

It can hardly be a coincidence the Ard-Stiúrthóir of the GAA who is likely to lead the organisation’s negotiations with the player body is himself a former player welfare manager for the Association.

“I have no problem in dealing with the GPA,” Pauric Duffy said when appointed to the player
welfare post in 2006, adding: “I know Dessie Farrell very well and I know that a primary goal from their foundation was the whole issue of player welfare.

“I hope that we will build up a player welfare service that is second to none.”

Duffy now has the chance to do that. The imprimatur of the elected figurehead, the GAA President, came when Christy Cooney was inaugurated; few people picked up on Cooney’s reference to player welfare, but by going on the record at his coronation the Cork native indicated the matter was likely to be addressed soon in his term in office. So it’s proved.

A sense of reality should be maintained at the same time.

The GPA has done well to throw out the figure of 5% of GAA revenue as their target. Not because they’ll get it, but because it puts the notion of a fixed revenue stream on the table. Once you get that concept in the mix, it generally remains only to fix an amount everybody can live with.

On a linked issue, those criticising the GPA for seeking cash per se are unrealistic; you can’t run any organisation on good wishes and warm smiles. Programmes and policies cost money if they’re to be implemented and any scheme devised to help player welfare isn’t going to operate at no cost.

By the same token, however, should the player organisation be looking for money from the GAA in the first place if its aim is to remain independent?

If the GAA supplies the funding for the newly-
recognised GPA, welcomed-back-to-the-bosom of the Association and ensconced in a nice suite of
offices in Jones Road, then it’s entitled to call the tune when it comes to spending that money.

Would the GPA be happy with that, either at membership or management level?

Elsewhere in these pages you can read about a possible boycott by participants in the Clare-Wexford hurling relegation game next weekend on the grounds of general meaninglessness; players from both sides are staying in touch with each other regarding their next step.

Whatever your view of that possibility, this kind of organised response would have been unthinkable before the GPA flexed its muscles. Now who could say they’re truly surprised by it?

If the GPA and the GAA emerge from these talks singing from the same hymn sheet, that kind of problem could be headed off at source in future, which would unquestionably be a good thing.

If the GPA and the GAA emerge singing from the same balance sheet, however, what price another player body emerging a few years down the line?; Twitter: MikeMoynihanEx


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