Dolan urges retention of player grants scheme

DESSIE DOLAN has pleaded with the government not to dispense with the players’ grants this year.

Speaking at the launch of the HSE Community Games at Athlone IT yesterday, the Westmeath sharpshooter was responding to recent comments from Sports Minister Martin Cullen that he had no money to fund the scheme.

The minister has placed the onus on the GAA to keep the scheme alive, even though Croke Park is unwilling to make a direct monetary contribution to players in light of the association’s amateur ethos.

Both the GAA and GPA agree that a reduction of the grant in line with current economic trends is inevitable, but insist that the government should not shelve the scheme after just one year.

According to Dolan, such action would be particularly unfair on GAA players, as many of them are out of work at the moment, including a number of his own county team-mates.

“Everybody has to take their hit” said the Garrycastle clubman. “I’m a teacher and I’m taking a hit and I don’t mind that.

“I know in Westmeath there’s five or six lads out of work and it’s not that they’re not intelligent guys… there just isn’t work in their area. There’s a couple of solicitors, a couple of builders and carpenters and the work just isn’t there.

“So I think the GAA lads should be rewarded in some way for the effort they put in.

“I look at golfers, I look at the rugby players, the people in horse racing; they’re all getting their slice of the cake so where are the GAA players in all this? Really and truly, when it comes down to it, one of the most Irish things is the GAA. It might be a bit harsh just to cut it completely.

“It’s just a small way of saying thanks. It was great last year to get it at Christmas and just go out and buy a few presents.”

Financial remuneration is not the reason the 29-year-old plays the game however, and after a decade on the senior inter-county scene, he is excited about the championship as ever.

Westmeath play either Longford or Wicklow next month and one of the most experienced men on Tomás O Flatharta’s panel can’t wait.

“It’s amazing. You go from U21 and you don’t care, you’ve no worries, you lose a game and you get over it. All of a sudden you’re 25 and people say you’re an experienced player.

“Within two years then you’re the old player (because) everyone is after leaving and people are looking towards you to be the rock of sense or to say something that will inspire everybody but it doesn’t work like that.

“It just goes fast, being an inter-county footballer. It’s so enjoyable. Now, it’s all about the championship and the buzz you get from it. Sometimes you ask yourself if it’s worth it but when you run out onto the pitch for championship football, there’s no other feeling in the world. You can’t buy that and it’s what keeps you going.”

Meanwhile, Dolan is mourning the decision not to adopt the experimental disciplinary rules for the championship: “I liked the rules in that they favoured the forward, favoured good players and good tackling.”

And he is also calling on the GAA to start a campaign for respecting referees.

“One of the most important things we need to get is to respect the GAA referees. I’m envious of rugby for the respect they have with referees. If the GAA could instil that at a young age it would be great.”

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