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Dublin: 4 °C Saturday 14 December, 2019

GPA hit back at Colm O'Rourke column - 'There were a couple of cheap shots in there'

O’Rourke’s column has provoked a huge reaction after he expressed his views on the GPA’s current approach.

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

THE GPA HAVE hit back back at Colm O’Rourke’s comments in his column in yesterday’s edition of The Sunday Independent where he criticised the current approach taken by the players’ body.

Sean Potts, the GPA head of communications, believes ‘there were a couple of cheap shots’ in the column and has defended the work of the organisation.

“Overall we found it a very disappointing piece particularly from a former player and someone of his standing. Our core work is really safeguarding our players future and the games. A lot of our stuff is confidential as it involves getting to the core of someone’s well-being.

“We do release our statistics and reports. It is always a challenge for us to get people to try to understand what we do. Our priority over the last few years is to get players to understand the value in what we do.”

Potts responded on behalf of the GPA to some of the points that O’Rourke raised:

1. ”It does not exist as a radical body acting on behalf of players any more.”

“It was mentioned that we’re not radical any more but the truth is that we agitate in private. Our relationship with the GAA is that we reached an agreement that puts in place core funding which helps us provide development programmes.

“The aim of the GPA is to invest in programmes that can make a profound difference ot the lift of a player. We want players to engage and take control of their own personal development.

“These players sacrifice a huge amount and we have programmes in place to help them like counselling, mental health support, cardiac screening and that type of critical support. That was all ignored and skimmed over by Colm, which was very disappointing. I don’t know why he did that and if he had engaged with us, he’d have found out.”

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

2. “I would have thought they would be better off protesting strongly about playing the All-Ireland semi-final replay in Limerick than organising golf outings.”

“This was another cheap shot. We contacted both squads after that fixture was made and asked them did we want to intervene and try to get it moved. The player reps from both squads communicated to us that the squads weren’t happy but they wanted to get on with it.

“The fixture was made and they didn’t want to make a circus of it. We did speak to them. Did we release a press release about that? No, as we don’t do that on everything. We’ve evolved from a campaigning organisation to one who provides support programmes for players.”

3. “One of the main problems I have with the GPA, however, is the sense of elitism emanating from it.”

“This was another nebulous type of accusation. The reason county players are supported is that they’re the ones who’re earning commercially for the GAA. The broadcasting rights and sponsorships deals are sold upon them. For the standard that needs to be maintained, it’s essential those players get that level of support.

“It’s a cheap shot to say we’ve been bought off. We’ve a huge players association compared to other sports when you compare us to IRUPA or other organisations. Every county player is represented.”

Dessie Farrell GPA CEO Dessie Farrell Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

4. “The issues facing club players are far more important than any inter-county group who are now generally looked after properly and have a fairly well-planned schedule of games. “

“We’re involved in the fixtures debate and constantly trying to put forward positive alternatives. We engage with the GAA. Is there a suggestion we should go on strike for it? The problem with the fixture issue is that when you drill down, it gets complicated as there are so many different interests between hurling and football, and loads of different grades.

“You’re then faced with an impasse where no one wants to concede. It has improved in many counties and it’s almost mischievous to suggest that it’s the GPA’s fault.”

5. “The GPA might do more about player burnout.”

“We’ve a hard hitting report coming out on this in a few weeks time. We’ve worked in a methodical way with students to look in to this. He’s right in highlighting these issues but he’s absolutely wrong to say we’re not tackling them.

“That’s the kind of thing we’re annoyed about. We’ve been working very hard to influence people in third-level institutions to help those players who are under serious strain. Yet that work was ignored.”

Darren Fay Former Meath player Darren Fay Source: James Crombie/INPHO

6. “I don’t understand, though, why the GPA needs money to deal with the issues facing players.”

“How are we supposed to deal with increased costs? The more players engage, the more it costs us. Are we to turn them away? We can’t wait around for funding. The example we’ve been using is Darren Fay, who received a bursary from the States recently to go back to college.

“Have we touched every player yet? No, but that’s the ambition. Players are very supportive, particularly those who have gone through the programme. They know the value of it and will then tell others.”

7. “Or devise a system where every player, whether in football or hurling, gets a chance to play on the most important pitch of all.”

“We have put forward alternative models and we’re in constant conversation with our members on this. But the counties themselves didn’t want it. It’s a difficult one. We’VE put forward different ideas for models.

“A Champions League style model was one that football players were enthused about but they still want the provincial model to stay at the same time. We have been active and engaged to try to tackle these issues.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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