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GPA insist they're 'not in the GAA's pockets' but must improve relationship with the media

President David Collins was speaking on Sunday Sport yesterday.

GPA PRESIDENT DAVID Collins has defended the players body’s relationship with the GAA, while also accepting they need to improve their relationship with the media.

David Collins Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Tyrone legend Philip Jordan criticised the GPA in an RTE column last week, writing: “We rarely hear anything about them and when there’s any bit of an issue it’s almost like they stick their head in the sand.”

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1′s Sunday Sport yesterday, Collins said the substantial funding the GPA receive has not blunted their edge when it comes to dealing with the GAA.

“We’re not in the GAA’s pockets,” he said. “Yes, we’re partners with the GAA, but we have to be partners with the GAA. They are the key stakeholders to it all and if we don’t deal with them, understand them, work with them – then where are we going to go as an organisation.

“Are we too nice now that we’re a partner with the GAA? We have to be on the same page as them, we have to work with them but we also have to be there for our players.

“Only two weeks ago we stood up for our players, we polled them instantly on how they felt about the restructuring or how they felt about the Super 8s. That’s information based and we feed that back to the GAA through meetings.”

Back in January, GPA founder Donal O’Neill told the Irish Examiner that the GAA now “own their ass” because of the agreement signed two years ago between the organisations.

Donal O'Neill GPA founder Donal O'Neill at their AGM in 2003 Source: ©INPHO

The former Galway hurler refuted that claim, referencing a GPA statement released in March which supported a number of inter-county squads who planned not to fulfill rescheduled league fixtures that were set for Bank Holiday Monday.

“The GAA weren’t happy with what we did that in terms of releasing a statement and how we pushed for the games to be called off because of the support for the players,” he explained.

“How do the GAA go around setting games for a Bank Holiday Monday when we have players who have employment in the north of the country which wasn’t a bank holiday? These are key issues and we forced that back on the GAA.

“But this is something we need to do more of, we need to be seen to be doing more of it. If we’re not seen to be confrontational, people think we’re not doing anything but that is far from the truth.”

Collins accepted the GPA have failed in the past to get their message out there and said they’ll endevour to improve their relationship with the media.

“The GPA hasn’t been out there advocating what we do for players and the game, so our relationship with the media hasn’t been fantastic,” he said.

Noel Connors, Dermot Earley, Collins and Tom Parsons at the launch of the GPA Strategic Plan 2017-2019 last June Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“Our explanation of what we do and how players respond and engage with us isn’t in the public eye. That’s a key thing we need to change. But it’s the relationships that we need to change, be it with the media, be it with our stakeholders in the GAA. That’s a perception we need to drive forward.

“We have failed in (that in) the past. We are working on that now and that’s really a strategy going forward in the next 12 to 18 months that we engage more, get people to understand what we actually do and to be unafraid to talk about what we actually do and the actually benefits in terms of what players (get).

“We are guilty of not actually publicising what we do. The player stories we have. We need to get that out there.”

He admitted there’s a reluctance among inter-county players to engage with the media beyond commercial activities.

“Yes, there is. If I take my own personal experience, I think being in front of the media is a key learning curve to your life development because you can sit in front of an interview, sit in front of people and speak honestly and openly in what you believe in.

David Collins and Dermot Earley Collins with former GPA CEO Earley Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“I think players are too sheltered at the moment and managers don’t want them to talk because they’re afraid of what they’re going to say. (One of) the programmes we provide is actually interview experience, interview techniques on what not to say, what to say, how to bring the conversation around to what you need to talk about.

“We would educate them in relation to how to prepare for interviews.”

When co-presenter Joanne Cantwell asked Collins if that meant the GPA train players to say nothing in interviews, he responded: “No, that’s not what I’m saying. In terms of interview techniques: how to actually perform in an interview, behave and be professional.

“That’s what we like to see, players being positive in the media, being positive in life and bringing it to their careers and that’s what we hope to be. Make them better players off the field.”

Finally, the Liam Mellows club man said the appointment of Dermot Earley’s successor as CEO will be a “game-changer” for the GPA. The position has been advertised on the GPA website since last Friday and the page has amassed almost 1,700 views since it went live.

“Fantastic interest,” said Collins. “A really, really tough decision.”

The closing date for applications is on 27 April.

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Kevin O'Brien

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