GAA has maintained its values, insists O’Neill

GAA president Liam O’Neill has denied that the association values money over players.

Former Cork player Teddy McCarthy said in Wednesday’s Irish Examiner that the qualifiers highlight the greed of the GAA, and it comes at the cost of dual players such as Eoin Cadogan and Damien Cahalane, who have had to choose between the codes.

O’Neill has flatly denied any such suggestions.

“I think Teddy played long enough to know, and was involved in the GAA long enough to know, that we’re not about greed,” said O’Neill.

“It’s all very fine for the players coming from the strong counties, that are going to be in the All-Ireland finals every year, with Cork amongst them. But the qualifiers were brought in to give an extra opportunity to showcase the skills of players in counties who wouldn’t feature in the final stages of the All-Ireland championships.

“It’s not about money. It’s a disappointing comment. I think we showed last year with our All-Ireland final replay [where stand tickets were cut from €80 to €50 and terrace from €40 to €25], and with the value we gave to customers the whole way through the season, that promotion of games is our main concern.

“Money is recycled and used to develop the games and develop players. We spend, as an organisation at national, provincial, county and club level, over €20m per year on developing young players. Money has to come from somewhere but money isn’t a prime motivation for us.

“86c of every €1 taken in goes back to player development, physical development or structures or schools and colleges. That’s the only reason we need money: to recycle it.”

The issue of binge drinking among GAA players has also returned to the public domain after outgoing Waterford hurling team doctor Mark Rowe insisted the problem is “everywhere”. O’Neill insisted the GAA are acutely aware of the issue and have been tackling it.

“We have an ASAP [Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention] policy and an ASAP officer employed now for almost six years. Colin Regan, former Leitrim footballer, is there and we have been working on that for quite some time. He is well aware of the difficulties facing clubs and players and we have an active programme working to help people to deal with pressures that are put on young people.”

Social media also puts players at risk of abuse and the GAA president said the issue will come to a head.

“I’m concerned about anyone getting abuse anywhere. I’ve said this before in relation to on the field and supporters shouting things at players, anybody who is demeaned in any way or made feel less of a person because they’re involved in some activity, it is something I abhor.

“It’s unkind, it’s unfair, and people need to be aware of their responsibilities using Twitter and social media. They’re wonderful when used properly but somebody, soon, is going to be held to account for what they say on social media.”

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