Ex-Kilkenny captain Eddie O’Connor condemns mandatory blood-testing

Former Kilkenny All-Ireland hurling captain Eddie O’Connor has castigated plans for mandatory blood-testing of GAA players, stating that if it becomes mandatory players will have to paid as professionals.

The Glenmore man declares that if the GAA authorities go along with the Sports Council’s plans for blood-testing from next year, it will be a complete departure from the amateur ethos of the Association.

O’Connor suggests a coming together of inter-county hurling and football managers and players from both codes to put forward a unified front for payment for players should blood-testing become a reality. It is an issue, he feels, where the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) could provide the lead.

“The GAA can’t have jam on the two sides of their bread,” O’Connormaintains. “If a player takes a Panadol on a Saturday night or a supplement which shows up the following day as a prohibited substance in a blood test, it not alone scars that player’s reputation as a hurler or footballer for life but it could affect them in the workplace in terms of potential promotion in their job. The implications are enormous.”

O’Connor, who famously called for the GAA to fund a foreign holiday for the players from the Hogan Stand after he captained Kilkenny to All-Ireland victory over Galway in 1993, also took a swipe at the media which he accused of harbouring a bias against his native county.

“To my mind it is a case of ABK – Anybody But Kilkenny – within the media.”

Having listened to “a panel of so-called hurling experts” on RTÉ 1 last Sunday evening, O’Connor was disgusted that not even one of the group picked Kilkenny as potential All-Ireland champions. “I view that as a lack of respect for the defending McCarthy Cup holders” he declared.

The former Kilkenny captain insists the media focus on retirements from Kilkenny’s ranks is overblown. “The truth is that only one player – J J Delaney – is missing from the 15 players who took the field for last September’s All-Ireland replay with Tipperary,” he commented.

Regarding hurling itself, O’Connor says he concurs fully with the view of Kilkenny boss Brian Cody that there is nothing wrong with the game and that the rules should be left alone.

He added: “Rule changes to hurling will only destroy the game – there is no need for change.”

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