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'That's a terrific idea' - support for GAA to appoint a Nucifora-type figure to tackle player burnout

GPA chairman Seamus Hickey has backed a suggestion from GAA President John Horan.

GAA President John Horan at the launch of the ESRI report into playing senior inter-county games.
GAA President John Horan at the launch of the ESRI report into playing senior inter-county games.
Image: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

A SUGGESTION THAT the GAA need to appoint a national figure overseeing the demands placed on younger players and ensuring they do not suffer burnout, has been warmly received by the chairman of the GPA.

GAA President John Horan spoke about his idea yesterday at the launch of the ESRI report into the playing of senior inter-county Gaelic Games.

He drew a parallel with the role played by David Nucifora in the IRFU, who has a direct involvement in the workload of Irish rugby players. 

“We are at a point, and it’s been shown in the stats here, where our younger players are coming under more pressure than our older players because of their multiple commitments to college, U20, U21 and senior teams,” stated Horan at the launch in Croke Park.

“Is it time for us as an organisation to take on board a character similar to David Nucifora in rugby where we have an actual Player Welfare Officer who ties in with our players, who dictates what is appropriate or not appropriate for our players to engage in?

“Or do we leave it to the multiple of managers to work on their own individual relationships, because if that’s happening then maybe the player isn’t central to it at all.”

David Nucifora IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

And GPA chairman Seamus Hickey would be delighted if such an appointment was implemented.  

“That’s a terrific idea. I’d love that. Again, it’s resource-dependent, so ideally, and listen there are a number of players associations across the world that we’ve modelled ourselves on, across the UK, New Zealand, Australia and the US, there’s amateur sports in the US and Australia and we can learn from them in terms of the structures that they implement.

“Now you are always limited by resources and anything you dedicate to the inter-county game takes away from the club. This is always a balancing act, we are a stakeholder in the GAA and we are always conscious of that.

“But our remit is to take the best possible care we can of inter-county players and we will continue to push to do that. A designated player relations officer or whatever is there in the IRFU; that’s a very intriguing prospect.

“Again it might eliminate this see-saw motion of new managers, new regimes and different philosophies coming in and changing how things were done. I would encourage it, I would be for it but again it is resource dependant.”

Hickey agrees that the history of regulation within GAA is poor but feels that it can be important.

“I said it previously, how committed are we to regulating? We’re a stakeholder in that, the Gaelic Players’ Association as a player.

Seamus Hickey GPA Chairman Seamus Hickey. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“It’s really important that these decisions are often removed, definitely take them out of players hands because players are eager and players will play generally when asked. management teams will do it if they’re let.

“It’s how committed are we to regulation. If we’re talking about county boards, how committed are they to enforcing the rules? They have motivation if the less group sessions they do, the less expenses they pay.

“How committed are we to regulating the practice of training outside of the allotted times? The winter training ban was an example of a rule that was set in place without any real plan for enforcing it.

“It’s done in other amateur associations in the US, the NCAA, I’m not a massive fan of them in general about how they treat their players on a wider level.

“But their edict of maximum training hours a week is enforced and penalties are severe for infractions.”


Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

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Fintan O'Toole

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