The Clonmel native, who coached the Tipperary senior hurlers during Eamon O’Shea’s tenure, believes that by not extending its mental health services to club players in difficulty, the players’ association is being “fundamentally anti-GAA”.
“I know of a case where the GPA was contacted recently in relation to a player who is having difficulties. And they asked the question: is he a county player? They were told that no, he was a club player. The line from the GPA was ‘Oh, well then, we can’t deal with that.’
“Now that is fundamentally anti-GAA, in my opinion. Because one of the great things about the GAA is that if anyone in the GAA is approached by another GAA member for a bit of help or a digout, they get that help and digout. We depend on each other.
“So, like a lot of people, I would have concerns about elitism within the GAA and the route the GPA is taking. I don’t like this notion of one set of people, namely inter-county players, being valued above anyone else. Why should an inter-county player be valued at a higher level than a person, male or female, who has been taking the U10 team out for 20 years? Or the local school teacher who has given 30 years service of introducing our children to our games?
Speaking to the Irish Examiner for a wide-ranging interview to be published in tomorrow’s Weekend Sport, O’Neill says the HDC will prioritise the standardisation of the core of the sliotar, maintaining that there is too much variation from ball to ball and that the ball is currently too light.
“One of the things [GAA Head of Games] Pat Daly has done a lot of research into is that a microchip can be fitted which can track the history of the sliotar. So before a game a referee can come along with his mobile phone and his app and establish its quality assurance and history.
“At the moment, the ball is travelling too far. It’s too light. And that has huge implications for the game that’s played. We now have a goalie pucking out a ball and it’s almost landing on the opposite full-back line? It’s wiping out midfield play. You have to ask yourself questions when we more and more are seeing scorelines like 1-31.
“I remember last summer we were in Semple Stadium training, and a few of the lads were having their own freetaking challenge. And they were maybe 30 yards out from their goal, and they were putting them over the bar at the far end. And I said to myself, ‘That’s interesting now... but I’m not sure that’s right!’ So, the standardisation of the sliotar – we really need to prioritise that.”