James Crombie/INPHO Colm O'Rourke.
# central issue
'If they don't stand up for players' rights then why are the GPA in existence?' - O'Rourke
The Sunday Game pundit has called on the players’ body to focus on a fixtures plan.

COLM O’ROURKE BELIEVES the Gaelic Players Association must re-invent itself if it wants to remain relevant.

The former Meath footballer and Sunday Game pundit told Newstalk’s Off The Ball tonight that the GPA needs to focus its energy on tackling the “fixture issue that is central to the health and well-being” of its members.

“I think the most important thing surrounding any union is a vision for the playing of the games and it has to start with a proper fixtures plan.

“For me, the tackling of the fixtures issue is central to a lot of the health and well-being issues that the GPA trumpet that they are about. Anybody who’s helping in areas of mental well-being is to be commended.

“But that’s not their role. Their role should be to look after the playing end of things and with that and a properly planned structure, a lot of the other problems could be lessened.

“If you don’t stand up for players’ rights then why are you in existence? — they’re not set up for counselling.”

O’Rourke criticised the players’ body in his column for the Sunday Independent at the weekend, describing some of their services as “bullshit” and saying: “young men are not as mentally tough in dealing with normal life issues as previous generations who had to battle hard in a much different and harsher environment”.

And Dublin’s Paul Flynn, the recently-appointed secretary of the organisation, voiced his disagreement with O’Rourke’s remarks.

However, O’Rourke does feel that the GPA’s proposal for a Champions League-style format should have been given more consideration by the GAA. GPA members voted unanimously, 31 out of 32 counties, for the proposal but it hasn’t made it to Congress.

And the double All-Ireland winner believes that decision by GAA HQ speaks volumes about the relationship between the GAA and the GPA.

“I think their games plan should have been given better consideration and that shows what the GAA, at a central level, really thinks of them,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke was adamant that the inter-county fixture list has to be changed and the “madness” of so many training sessions for young players has to stop if the games are to hold on to their best players.

“We have to sort out the inter-county fixture list. Young players are training four or five times a week, sometimes seven times a week. And they are travelling up and down the country. This madness must stop.

“A lot of young players are walking away. Players are retiring earlier.”

O’Rourke feels that the demands placed on inter-county players have taken the enjoyment out of playing the games at an elite level.

“Football should be about enjoyment. But now it’s about sacrifice and hardship. The whole lifestyle versus football has been completely warped in favour a regime of total slavery to the game.”

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