The Gaelic Players Association (GPA) have claimed the GAA arranged the inter-county season for the end of the year to ensure larger crowds can attend them.
That was the message conveyed by the official inter-county players body to their members on Friday evening after the GPA met with the GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) to articulate the views of county footballers and hurlers.
“The GAA have positioned the inter-county competitions at the latter end of the year to maximise attendances,” the note to members read.
They now need to respect the views of the inter-county players on these issues, and as the high performing unit of our sports, the inter-county game needs to be given the respect it deserves.
Inter-county players are seeking clarification from the GAA that they can return to training with their panels when their clubs have exited their respective championships.
On Saturday, GAA president John Horan reaffirmed that counties can only resume collective training on September 14. However, there has been no confirmation that county footballers and hurlers can go back earlier than that date should their interests in the county championships have ended.
The GPA relayed that point to the CCCC as they look set to release their schedule for the abbreviated 2020 inter-county season later this week. They also sought to ensure players returning to inter-county preparations earlier than September 14 be covered by the player injury scheme.
As well as that, the GPA have looked for a minimum of four weeks between the completion of the club championship and the first inter-county game. Even with the additional two weeks provided to county boards, that could be a challenge in the likes of Cavan, Derry, and Meath where county finals are scheduled to take place in October, either one or two weeks prior to the anticipated Allianz League games.
After surveying members, the GPA discovered there was no clear consensus regarding competition structures for the 2020 season. However, in the event the All-Ireland senior football championship is to be a knock-out competition, players said they would be in favour of a 32-county open championship “to ensure fairness across the board”.
Along with Allianz League action in mid-October, football counties are due to be given at least two games.
The CCCC, which the GPA have unsuccessfully attempted to join in the past, welcomed the GPA’s input and stated they would take it into consideration but highlighted that “they may not be able to deliver on all our (inter-county players) priorities”.
It was revealed that 17% of respondees to the survey might not return to play due to health concerns for themselves or those close to them. That compares to 22% of club players who said in early May that they would not be prepared to play.
The GPA stressed: “We will work to resolve the issues which you have raised; however, while Covid-19 remains in the country, there will remain some risk. We will respect the decision of any players who opt out of playing in 2020. Equally, we would call for understanding from county boards, managers, and supporters on this matter.”