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Flynn: County players are 'crying out for an off-season'

The GPA released its 2019 annual report today.

GPA chief executive Paul Flynn.
GPA chief executive Paul Flynn.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

PAUL FLYNN SAYS the Gaelic Players Association remain intent on delivering a proper off-season that inter-county players are “crying out for”. 

An ERSI study found that players dedicate on average 31 hours to the game, while many counties return to training in November each year giving players little time-off in-between seasons when club commitments are factored into the equation.

Flynn is determined to bring more balance to their lives. He explained that the GPA are looking into the creation of an online platform where players can report instances where off-season training bans are breached.

“Players are crying out for an off-season, that’s one fact, now it gives them an opportunity to report if there is non-compliance with the off-season window,” he stated at today’s launch of the GPA’s 2019 annual report.

“It’s one of the key strategic initiatives from my perspective, to deliver on an off-season for inter-county players.

“It goes back to the idea of sustainable amateurism, it goes back to the foundation of what we aim to achieve in the GPA, to bring that balance between the players’ personal, professional and physical life and I think that this is a core element of it. We’ll have to just roll it out and then we’ll be able to monitor the usage of it.”

Sustainable amateurism remains a key goal of the players’ body.

“[It] is built on the idea that the players are amateur athletes and that they have, and should be given space to have, a career off the field and space to build personal relationships with family and friends. Ultimately it really is about striking a balance.

“There’s an imbalance, there’s plenty of them at the moment, it can be around 31 hours being spent on inter-county, that’s an imbalance, the balance between club and county is an imbalance, the balance between life on and off the pitch, there’s plenty of them.

“I believe that by having a sustainable amateur model everything else we do can fall underneath it, including fixtures reform, including the programmes that we deliver, including a balance between a player’s voice versus an administrator’s voice.

“It’s all about balance. It’s not what some might believe or feel that we’re trying to push towards a professional model, absolutely not, it’s built on sustainable amateurism but it has to be built on balance as I just highlighted.”

The GPA are currently investigating the idea of optimal contact hours for squads. They’re using sports science to “identify the ideal time required for high performing athletes to be able to deliver on their chosen sports.”

Flynn added: “I often give an example that in all my years playing under Jim Gavin, I believe we trained less than every other county in the country.

“That was always my belief when I spoke to other players, when I learned about what they were doing, I always was feeling that we were doing less and it was because we were playing it smart.

“I believe that if we can adopt a very smart training model across the country we can definitely reduce the 31 hours while still allowing the game to naturally develop and grow and evolve because it’ll be based off sports science and management.” 

During a media briefing, Flynn said the GPA’s integration with the WGPA – which represents ladies football and camogie players – will be completed by December. ”I think that it’s going to be a fantastic outcome once we can complete it,” said Flynn. 

They expect centralised expenses online system that was approved at last year’s GPA AGM to be put in place by January 2021. 

In the annual report, the GPA reported a surplus of €87,674 for 2019, down from €306,300 the previous year. Describing 2019 as a “positive financial year” the report said income was down by 0.5% “as a result of decreased fundraising income.” 

The GPA saw a 31% increase in player engagement with player development programmes (1,448), while total programme engagements rose by 43%.

Screenshot 2020-07-29 at 2.57.24 p.m. Source: GPA annual report

The GAA funding to the GPA amounted to €2,970,572 while government funding of €3m was paid directly to players.

The GPA’s fundraising efforts, which was primarily generated in the US, raised €611,994 which accounted for 12% of their total revenue. Government grants (40%) and GAA funding (39%) provided the majority of their income. 

Of the GPA’s expenditure, 81% went directly towards player development programmes and player welfare, and 14% amounted to operating costs. 

Screenshot 2020-07-29 at 1.14.02 p.m. Source: GPA

You can read the GPA’s 2019 annual report here

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Kevin O'Brien

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