JOHN FOGARTY: GPA playing a long game on professionalism

“Maybe a tax break? Or maybe a two or three month period of the year where players are able to go part time, and they’re given much better expenses to play games. The further they go, the more expenses they get.”

- Philly McMahon, September 2018.

“I’m not quite sure but I think you’re talking about a semi-professional status the same as what the League of Ireland is at the moment maybe.”

- Lee Chin, May 2018.

“I can see it going semi-professional, or there’s going to be something. You see the money that’s generated on (All-Ireland) semi-finals, final day, there’s 80-odd thousand in Croke Park, so, I think there’s going to be something done. I don’t think it will be in my playing career, but I’d imagine there could be something done in the future.”

- Damien Comer, January 2018.

“I’m not calling for professionalism but I do see it coming down the line, especially with the demands that are out there.”

- Michael Shields, January 2018.

“When a county is knocked out of the Championship early many players head off but, if they were to get a fee for playing on at home, it would, I believe, encourage many to remain. The GAA is not short of money.”

- Brian Fenton, November 2017.

“You will probably have franchises. You are probably going to have to split the Championship into a different structure. That’s the way it’s going to go, players will get paid eventually.”

- Aidan O’Shea, April 2014.

“We’re not going to get to massive levels but maybe to the point where there’ll have to be some sort of remuneration for players”

- Dermot Earley, May 2013.

“I think it’s inevitable really, people talk about professionalism being unsustainable. I can’t see it being any less sustainable than amateurism at the moment, in terms of the difficulties that exist at the minute trying to sustain an amateur game, it’s obviously proving difficult.”

- Paul Galvin, February 2012.

“The GPA, we’re committed to the amateur ethos because our players tell us we are. It (the attitude towards it) is changing over the years, it is. There’s no question that it is.”

- Seamus Hickey, September 2018.

Updating the definition of amateurism is part of John Horan’s promise as GAA president. In his opening address last February, he said he would seek to have it described “in a GAA context in the modern era”.

Policing payments to managers and the like, he added, was next to impossible. “Rules just aren’t going to work,” he said.

Not many would disagree with him there - regulation and the GAA are often oil and water. So it was somewhat of a surprise last Tuesday when he suggested the organisation needs a David Nucifora like gamekeeper.

It made for a tasty soundbite but at odds not just with the GAA’s history of contravening it - payments to managers, inter-county training bans, training camps - but the GAA’s very creation of a quasi-professional environment.

There’s more than an element of closing the door after the horse has bolted about attempting to enshrine amateurism at the highest level when inter-county players in both codes are lining out in more games than ever before and there is a growing determination to establish a tiered football championship.

In their battle for Government grants just over 10 years ago, the GPA were slammed, their actions regarded as “the thin end of the wedge”.

Even if they are unsure about the destination, that slow but steady train towards professionalism is now being driven by the GAA.

Subsumed and submissive are adjectives we and others have used to describe the GPA as but it’s becoming clearer they are playing a longer game.

As their chairman, Hickey, pointed out at the weekend, they will be amateur so long as their members wish to be so.

They won’t bite the hand that feeds them until they can feed themselves.

Before then, they have the means to provide enhanced amateurism as former chairman Dónal Óg Cusack described it - quasi-professionalism in most other people’s language.

Last week’s ESRI report strengthens their hand at the next round of funding talks with Croke Park next year and that 31-hour figure, representing the average amount a player puts into his sport every week, is one they should be screaming from the rooftops.

Their end game occasionally reveals itself whether it be the gala fundraising dinners in the US where they invite the likes of NFL Players Association chief executive DeMaurice Smith as a guest of honour, seeking millions from the National Lottery in return for players backing Government policy campaigns or their logo, which is modelled on the NBA and MLB emblems.

When professionalism arrives - and it will arrive - the GPA will be the first to the door to greet it.

Sheedy’s Tipp generation

Liam Sheedy might not have known it at the time but earlier this summer he gave some indication into how Tipperary are likely to approach the league under his command next year.

GPA playing a long game on professionalism

Speaking after the county’s exit from the Championship in June, he said: “We reached the league final, the lads went back hell for leather in the club championship then in April when other counties weren’t as invested in their championships. That might have taken its toll. “

How Tipp approach the League next year remains to be seen. They may go at it hammer and tongs in the early stages again but you might see a different approach in the weeks before the Championship starts.

Back-to-back league final defeats have scarred Tipperary and as much as Sheedy guided Tipperary to 2008 and 2009 deciders it would appear the side will taper their intensity towards the end of the competition. In how he stepped away after the 2010 success, Sheedy left Tipperary supporters wanting more. The older players too, it would seem, and they would consider him as the man to bookend the senior careers he started.

Speaking in June, he seemed to be fully aware of where they stood. “I know those lads, I had a lot of them at minor when they broke through, and I know what they are made of. They are serious warriors and they will be hurting big time by what happened this year. They will come back better, I think. It wouldn’t take much to get Tipp going again.

“Certainly, people are saying that it would be a shame if they retired with just two All-Ireland medals after all the quality hurling they have produced but I wouldn’t feel they are thinking like that at all.”

Liam Cahill can count himself unfortunate to miss out but this is a reunion Tipperary found difficult to resist.

Visit of Mayo officials to Solan home suggests he may get job

Sources in Mayo suggest that county officials paid a visit to the home of Mike Solan.

GPA playing a long game on professionalism

Whether James Horan was afforded the same courtesy, at his abode in Breaffy, is uncertain, but the delegation’s trip to Ballaghaderreen, along with news of the backroom team Solan is already putting together, would suggest he is in an advanced position.

The face of the county executive in Mayo has changed since Horan took aim at them, in 2014, for not standing up to Croke Park for fixing their All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry in Limerick: “The most unbelievable part of the whole matter was the fact that our own county board didn’t come out and say something, when the president of the GAA told Mayo to stop complaining and concentrate on the game, if they knew what was good for them. I can’t understand how they didn’t stand up for the team.

They should have, but there was no comment whatsoever and that was very disappointing.

However, memories are long and there will also be a wariness among some about Horan’s insistence that no expense be spared — as early as his first season in charge, then chairman Paddy McNicholas had a sit-down with Horan about costs.

Solan, as impressive as he has been with the U21s and U20s, might also be seen as a more amenable option.

- john.fogarty@examiner.ie

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