GAELIC Players Association chief Dessie Farrell is confident his organisation will quickly win over its detractors.
The GPA was officially recognised as the representative of inter-county GAA players at a Central Council meeting last weekend.
The 39-5 vote in favour of bringing the once rogue players body under the arm of the Association represented a firm approval from delegates.
But in the days before the vote, northern trio Tyrone, Donegal and Fermanagh let it be known that they didn’t approve of the link up.
The high profile Of One Belief protest group was even more scathing of the deal and spokesman Mark Conway released a 1,400 word document slamming the development.
Conway claimed that the GAA’s decision to fund the GPA to the tune of €1.6m until the end of 2010 is merely “siphoning off scarce resources that could have been used to great effect in increasing and improving real GAA facilities”.
But speaking publicly for the first time yesterday about the historic accord, Farrell insisted the GPA will eventually win all its critics over.
“I think that will happen when the type of initiatives that have been established and the outcomes and results of those initiatives and how they have actually benefited players emerges. It will be nearly impossible to argue against it,” said Farrell.
He said the GPA plans to put in place a welfare system that compliments the GAA’s status as the “world’s best amateur sporting organisation”.
“Now obviously we have detractors and those that will try to find fault,” he continued.
“But ultimately when it transpires what has been done for the players and past players, people will see the benefit of the GPA.”
Critics of the GPA have hit out at the body for only representing inter-county players who are perceived to be the elite of the GAA.
Farrell stressed that the GPA has never refused to advise or guide a club player but just hasn’t advertised that service.
Long-term he admitted the GPA plans to officially cater for club players.
“The bottom line is that we need to walk before we can run,” explained the former Dublin star. “There’s a huge amount of work to be done to get our plans for next year up and off the ground. The long-term ambition would be to facilitate and cater for club players in some shape or form.”
In the short-term the GPA will watch with interest today as the latest government budgetary figures are presented.
The Government funded GPA devised grant scheme for players has already been slashed from €3.5m in 2008 to €1.05m for 2009.
That represents a lowering of the parameters for payments to inter-county players from between €1,400 and €2,500 to between €350 and €800.
“We are still very disappointed that we were singled out for a 70% cut,” admitted Farrell. “But at the same time we need to be pragmatic about it.
“We decided to take what was on offer and hopefully in time be able to enhance that figure with the contribution GAA players make to Irish society and the exchequer as well.”
Farrell was speaking at the announcement of the GPA’s Halifax- sponsored Fair Play Award winners for 2009. The recipients were Kildare’s Dermot Earley in football and Joe Canning of Galway in hurling.
The long-term future of such schemes which were originally devised outside of the GAA have yet to be confirmed.
“All this kind of stuff will be up for grabs,” said Farrell. “I believe it is a very worthwhile scheme and something could be developed further however we go about that, jointly or separately or whatever.”
Likewise, Farrell said the future of the Opel-backed GPA player awards scheme was secure in the short-term but will be also the subject of ‘work groups’ discussion.
Intriguingly, he said the GPA would be retaining Club Energise as their commercial partners as they’ve signed a contract until 2013.
This would appear to indicate a softening of attitude on the GAA’s behalf who had refused to allow the sale or sponsorship of Club Energise products in grounds.
“I’d like to think there are opportunities around that for all of us, the GPA, the GAA, all of us,” said Farrell.
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