The Gaelic Players Association communications chief, Sean Potts, has hit back at Colm O’Rourke’s criticism of the player body, revealing that the GPA consulted the Kerry and Mayo squads when their All-Ireland semi-final replay was controversially moved to Limerick.
O’Rourke criticised the GPA in a newspaper column for being elitist, for not addressing fixture issues and burnout, and for focusing on fundraising rather than putting the case for Kerry and Mayo to play in Croke Park rather than Limerick.
However, yesterday Potts responded: “Both squads were contacted and we asked both if it was an issue we wanted to raise.
“They decided that because the decision had been made, they’d go ahead; they weren’t happy about having to play in Limerick, but as the decision had been made, they’d go ahead with it and didn’t want to revisit it.
“We didn’t issue a press statement about that because that’s not how we do our business.
“There seems to be some idea that when players are seen as slighted, the fact that we’re not sending out press releases means somehow that we’re inactive, but there’s a difference in the GPA pre- and post-agreement. We’re not a campaigning body any more. There shouldn’t be any doubt that when players want change, we bring that to the table in Croke Park.
“We’re not part of Croke Park — we’re an independent body but the dynamic of our work with the GAA is now producing support for players whose lives have been changed.”
Regarding the charge of elitism levelled by O’Rourke, Potts added: “It’s disappointing, I thought we were past that level of uninformed criticism.
“It’s disappointing in a number of ways. Looking at the piece, there’s criticism of the GPA for elitism, but there’s no player association in the world which represents everybody.
“What’s most disappointing, particularly as it comes from a former county player whose career spanned the change in the game, is that the reason county players are supported is down to the contribution they make to the commercial success of the Association.
“They’re harnessed commercially by the GAA, which separates them from the club player, though obviously they’re club players themselves. The players’ commitment to continue at the inter-county level rises all the time and we’re there to help with that — that’s why we get a slice of that cake, to help with that. If people don’t agree with that process, fine, they should come out and say so — ‘I don’t agree players should be supported’.”
Potts pointed out the player organisation spends heavily on scholarships and medical support for its members.
“Colm mentioned scholarships in his piece,” said Potts.
“We’ve spent €2.5 million on scholarships. Take the likes of Darren Fay, the former Meath player who went back to university after his business folded, and rediscovered his passion for maths and science: he got a first class honours in his first year and was taken into an elite maths group in Maynooth after that. There are other commitments. Shane McInerney went to a GPA heart screening and was discovered to have an anomaly: he didn’t have health insurance and the GPA stepped in and covered that, and he’s been supported with post-op programmes as well.
“That information is known, it’s out there, and I can only say it’s being willfully ignored here.
“We know the cost of hip operations and so forth, and it’s great that the money is there to cover those commitments, but that money has to be raised in the first place.”
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