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'It's against the ethos of the GAA': Association won't support Gooch dinner, says Duffy

Colm Cooper’s planned testimonial does not breach any GAA rules, said Director General Paraic Duffy.

Gooch: Funds raised will benefit charities and sporting organisations as well as the Kerry great.
Gooch: Funds raised will benefit charities and sporting organisations as well as the Kerry great.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

THE GAA WILL not support Colm Cooper’s planned testimonial dinner because it contravenes the Association’s amateur ethos, and may seek legal advice on how to deal with similar events in the future.

But GAA Director General Paraic Duffy confirmed that Kerry legend Cooper has not broken any rules with the black tie gala event which takes place in Dublin later this month.

Gooch’s dinner has created a storm of debate around the professionalisation of the GAA, with part of the funds benefiting charities and sporting organisations, and part being retained by Cooper himself.

Speaking on Today with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio, Duffy said that the GAA and its grassroots members are opposed to testimonial dinners.

“The first thing I said to him was, ‘Colm, I’ve got a concern here about how this might impact on your status and our rules.’ I said, ‘I can’t give you an answer, I’ve to look at it.’

“I’ve huge respect for Colm as a person and as a player, and it was a very affable conversation. I went away, we looked at our rules, got our legal advisors to look at them, and they came back and said he’s not breaking any rules here.

“I went back to Colm and said, ‘Look Colm, you’re not breaking any rules here, if you want to go ahead with it you won’t be suspended, there can’t be a charge levelled against you’, which was my initial concern.

But I did say, ‘Are you sure you’re doing the right thing here?’, and I did say to him that the GAA will not be supporting it, and we’re not supporting it.

Duffy – who announced yesterday that he will be standing down as Director General next year – said that there is a distinction between Gooch’s testimonial, and other current and former players who earn money through media work.

“If you do an autobiography, or punditry, you’re not taking funds that could go to the GAA in different ways. If you hold a major dinner, you’re going to the same people to support the dinner, the testimonial, as you would to support a club event to raise funds.

That’s the big concern that I would have, plus the fact that it’s against the ethos of the GAA to run a dinner that’s for individual benefit. We don’t do that.

“(Can the GAA prevent it) under our current rules? No. Do we need to look at it? Yes.

“It’s tricky because our current rules don’t allow us to deal with it, but I think we need to look at the rules.”

Duffy added: “Our organisation doesn’t want testimonials, and that’s the message that I’ve got very clearly over the past few weeks. It’s nothing to do with Colm Cooper whatsoever; it happens that he’s the first one.

The ethos of the association is that we’re an amateur association. We don’t reward our players financially. We don’t want to do that.

“You can say that in other cases maybe players benefit under the counter because we can’t deal with it, but this is a public thing. It’s there, we have to express a view, and our view is that we’re not going to support it.

“But Colm is not breaking our rules.”

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