Donegal chairman Mick McGrath senses expectation, commercialisation and legislation has left the GAA facing an identity crisis.
McGrath is concerned the demands being placed on volunteers from players to officials are becoming excessive and going against the core beliefs of the organisation.
Ahead of county convention tomorrow night, McGrath said: “There is a view out there that we have too much commercialism, too much semi-professionalism and professionalism within the GAA to try and make it a sporting organisation that the majority don’t want. It’s great when your county is going well but the amount of fundraising you have to do, the sponsorship you require to get to the top table nearly takes up your whole year.
“It’s semi-professional to professional. The Donegal players are back now doing strength and conditioning work every morning before work. Twenty years ago, a fit man would go for a five or 10-mile run before work and then kick a few balls in the evening. Now it’s different types of training five times a week.
The type of injuries are all now costing €5,000 to €10,000 to fix like cruciate ligaments and all that kind of stuff. You’re only getting so much out of the insurance company for that now the way insurance has gone and the county are having to find the money for a lot of it. It’s costing more and more.
McGrath worries about how much of a turn-off the GAA is becoming for those who but for what is now expected of them would otherwise get involved in coaching and administration. “There is more pressure on the voluntary worker than ever before and because of that, there is less voluntary workers getting involved. It’s down to child protection, coaches having qualifications and all the changes that have occurred in the Association in the last 20 to 30 years.
“A lot of it is for the good but it brings pressure and the ordinary Johnny can’t go down and coach the U14s anymore and roar and shout at them. There’s x, y and a z has to happen. I was talking to a club chairman last week who told me that they’d a guy who had passed the foundation, level one, two and three in coaching but they wouldn’t put him out with an U12 team because he’s not a coach, he’s an academic. There’s a huge difference.
“I remember going to into an under-age county team a few years ago and the assistant manager was doing all the talking. The manager was in the corner because the assistant manager had the dressing room. The manager didn’t have the respect or the confidence of the players.”
McGrath accepts the GAA has had to move with the times but there is plenty the organisation should be proud of. “There’s a lot of things right with the Association and we’re inclined to look too much at the 10% that isn’t right and not the 90% that is. There is some fantastic football and hurling being played and the exposure the games are getting on TV is massive as well as on social media. There are dangers there too. We’re in a different GAA now. We have to work on the 10% but let’s concentrate on the 90% that’s right.”