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'It is just disappointing that a third bullet point of a statement caught the headlines'

The GPA have defended their call for the GAA to apply insurance for teams that breach the training ban.

GPA secretary Tom Parsons.
GPA secretary Tom Parsons.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Updated Jul 30th 2020, 8:32 AM

THE GAELIC PLAYERS Association have defended the statement earlier this month that called for insurance to apply if counties trained before the 14 September embargo set down by Croke Park.

The GPA drew widespread criticism for failing to condemn counties that breached the training ban, instead calling for the GAA to restore its injury benefit scheme for such cases.

Offaly chairman Michael Duignan and Laois hurling boss Eddie Brennan were among those to criticise the GPA’s failure to protect players from serving two masters at the same time.

“The press release to me said inter-county resumes on the 14 September, now is the period for our clubs,” said GPA secretary and Mayo midfielder Tom Parsons.

“That is what I read first and foremost. The second piece then we need to protect the welfare of our players. This is a risk management, risk assessment piece as well guys. If there is one player, one county that permits training before 14 September for whatever reason because club activities end.

“If that happens and one player picks up a significant injury and we haven’t done due diligence to ensure that insurance was covered for something that was a risk then that isn’t doing our job in respect of player welfare.

“So I think they are two different things completely. I think we clearly stated in that statement that we are following these dates and that insurance was a risk assessment and risk mitigation that seems totally reasonable.

“It nearly comes back to the perception of the GPA. I would absolutely love some more reporting, the amazing positive stuff that we have talked about today in terms of the programmes delivered.

“It is just disappointing that a third bullet point of a statement caught the headlines in so many news articles.”

GPA chairman Seamus Hickey said county players have been unfairly caught in the middle of the club v county debate.

“There seems to be a widespread responsibility placed on the player without looking at the cultural norm that exists in the GAA and has existed as long as I’ve played and even before it,” said the Limerick All-Ireland winner.

“It really is across GAA culture that has to be changed. Placing all of the responsibility on the player to make the decision – it’s the same as two [club] managers in hurling and football fixing training for the same night and telling the player to choose.

“That’s not the game that we’re in. It’s not the best for the player. To put that responsibility exclusively on the player – I fully believe that we as the players’ association are part of the cultural change that is needed. We are endeavouring to show leadership in that area.

gpa-chairman-seamus-hickey-speaking-at-todays-gpa-reps-day GPA chairman Seamus Hickey. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“But it is part of the narrative that I’ve heard over the past number of weeks as a club player now exclusively. I’m seeing county players, they have the club championship first and foremost and then with the inter-county championship in the back of their mind in October

“I just feel the narrative has gotten shifted to a disproportionate responsibility of remembering our inter-county players are the ones who are asking to put themselves forward here. 

“I feel it doesn’t reflect the cultural change that’s needed and the leadership that is needed from both the governing body and the players’ body and when it comes down to the actual GAA membership themselves and inter-county managers. So you’re talking about responsibility to bear across the board and looking at one contingent to shoulder that, I think it’s a little unfair.”

Chief executive Paul Flynn reiterated his belief that players should be allowed to return to training with their counties once their clubs have been knocked out of the championship.

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“I still believe that players should be allowed return to county activity once they complete their club. Some guys could be finished with their club in the next fortnight.

“All the championships have been defined, dates the whole lot. There is no disadvantage to any clubs if players are able to return because they potentially could be sitting idle. It is important because there is a player welfare element to this.

“As much as they are club players, they are county players too. They need to prepare accordingly for the inter-county scene. It is an extra 10 minutes, it is a higher intensity, you need to be conditioned to be ready for that.

“I think that is important from a player welfare perspective and injury prevention, equally from a mental health perspective. As much as I was a Fingallians player, I was a Dublin player also, they were my teammates, spending time with them was as important spending time with both.

“With the sanctions and the restrictions, it leaves no room for common sense, even the idea of doing a rehabilitation session or a gym session. There are no gyms open in any clubs across the country, however inter-county teams have private gyms and could potentially have access to those. So again player welfare is one of our cornerstones.

“I accept that the press release wasn’t picked up in a positive light, but ultimately we represent players, their welfare and their interests. We are not in the game of sanctions.”

paul-flynn Former Dublin star Paul Flynn. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Flynn also accepted that the Covid-19 crisis would affect their negotiations with the GAA on a new framework deal between both organisations, but he emphasised it will be “a long-term deal.”

“Firstly, I’d say that no different to any other unit within the GAA we’re going to experience a contraction based off the current situation so our revenues are linked with the GAA’s revenues so obviously if their revenue goes down, our revenue potentially goes down too.

“The second thing I’d say is that in regards to the negotiations, it’s going to be a long-term deal, a long-term relationship. It’s a partnership model and this, what we’re experiencing right now, no different to any organisation or any sports organisation, is hopefully going to be a short-term impact.

“The GAA is around for many years, it’s going to be around for many years more and equally, the players. Yes, we will look at it from a short-term perspective with the GAA but with regards to a negotiated agreement, we’ll be looking at it from a long-term perspective also.”

When asked if he was confident the new deal could be struck before the end of John Horan’s tenure as President in November, Flynn replied: “If I was John Horan I’d like to do a deal for the players before my term is complete. That’s up to himself.

“I do feel we will make progress on that. Our aim is still to complete that before the end of the year.”

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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