The occasion was the annual gala banquet of the players’ body held at the Citywest complex, which honoured the GPA teams-of-the-year in hurling and football.
Honoured alongside those, however, were the top individuals from the various championship competitions, and while both Bernard and Lar were again the big winners, also coming up trumps last night were the lesser heralded trio of Joe Clarke (Westmeath, Christy Ring Cup player-of-the-year), Paul McCormack (Armagh, Nicky Rackard Cup player-of-the-year), Garret Ghee (Longford, Lory Meagher Cup player-of-the-year).
Prior to the banquet, the GPA held their AGM, and the main item to emerge from that was an amendment to the GPA constitution which copper-fastens the amateur status of the GAA.
The amendment, which states ‘The GPA is committed to the maintenance and protection of the amateur status of the Gaelic Athletic Association and the pursuit by the GPA of its objectives shall at all times be subject to that commitment’, merely confirms what the GPA has been stating for many years, that they are not about pay-for-play.
“This is simply enshrining a value which has been fundamental to the success of the GAA,” said GPA Chief Executive Dessie Farrell.
“It should now pave the way for full final recognition of the players body by the GAA, referred to by Dessie in his keynote address at the banquet.
“2010 was a momentous year for our players off the field. For the first time, a one-year interim agreement was reached between the GAA and GPA, while Congress officially recognised the GPA as the representative body for senior inter-county players, a historic milestone for both Associations. After 10 years, the most important objective since the inception of the Gaelic Players Association was achieved.”
Mr Farrell went on to say that he felt confident an agreement would be in place before the end of the year, a sentiment echoed by the GAA’s Director General, Páraic Duffy, who also addressed the 1000-strong gathering last night. “I’m confident it will happen in the coming months,” said Mr Duffy.
“We want to see a strong and independent GPA – I would hope that eventually the relationship between the GAA and GPA will become a model for other sporting organisations throughout the world.”
At the AGM there were four motions passed, in which the players 1) called on the government and the Irish Sports Council to maintain the current levels in the Government Funding Scheme, 2) authorised their National Executive Committee to conclude a ‘Recognition Agreement’ with the GAA, 3) stated their support for the introduction of video technology, and 4) proposed that the official time-keeping function should become the responsibility of a designation official other than the referee (the latter two motions to apply at inter-county level only).
On the GAA/GPA negotiations front, again very predictable, Chief Executive Dessie Farrell and his officers were given the green light to dot the i’s, cross the t’s, before official recognition is finally secured.
The final two motions, on video technology and time-keeping, merely echo what many have others in the GAA have called for again this year, in light of several high-profile controversial incidents during this year’s hurling and football championships.
In his address, Dessie Farrell also paid tribute to all those retiring from inter-county fare after this season, with pointed reference to Sean Óg Ó hAilpín, a high-profile and long-time GPA member, controversially cut by manager Denis Walsh from next year’s Cork senior hurling panel.
. “Tonight, I wish to acknowledge all those inter-county players who have decided to call it a day,” said Farrell, himself a former All-Ireland winner and star with Dublin footballers.
“These players have given phenomenal service to our games and their counties – men like Dan Shanahan, Darragh Ó Sé, Ciaran Whelan, Jason Sherlock, Anthony Rainbow, Ollie Canning, Kevin Flynn, Declan Fanning and, of course, the one and only Sean Óg Ó hAilpin.
“These men and men like them have been brilliant ambassadors for our games and also for the GPA, but as they close this important chapter in their lives they should be aware that they have left an outstanding legacy for all other players, young and old, club and county, the current stars and the stars of the future. ”
Mr Farrell then went out to outline a new initiative by the GPA, the setting up of a Past Players Advisory group. The evening also saw the launch of Voices From Croke Park, a GPA-sponsored book recalling the experiences of 12 former players.