Former Roscommon goalkeeper Shane Curran claims the GPA has left inter-county players “without a voice” and is compromised by GAA funding.
Curran says the official players body can’t be surprised their proposal to restructure the All-Ireland SFC was overlooked in favour of a less radical one when the organisation has sacrificed its independence.
The claim comes as Down football legend Conor Deegan revealed he’s considering setting up a specific organisation to represent the disenfranchised club player.
The two-time All-Ireland medalist claimed the situation has reached breaking point for club players who are crying out for leadership but being continually ‘driven into the ground’.
Deegan stressed that there is no ‘anti-GPA agenda’ involved.
The GAA and GPA currently have an interim recognition and funding agreement in place after the previous deal expired last year. But Shane Curran would like to see the Dessie Farrell-led group reestablish itself as a forceful players union.
“The GPA really need to get their own independent voices back in terms of who and what they represent. I have great time for Dessie Farrell, for what he and his colleagues tried to achieve in the early years but I think that identity has been lost.
“Colm O’Rourke was highly critical of them and while he may have been strong, there is certainly merit in opening a discussion about the actual role of the GPA.
“I feel myself players are without a voice and they are not being listened to. I feel the representative body is doing little for them in the round. The GPA are in danger of becoming a very, very elite type of organisation that is cosying up to the powers-that-be in the GAA without challenging them on the issues coming down the line like player welfare and games administration.
The GPA must find its independent voice again because the consideration out there is that they’re anything but that.”
At the same time, Curran believes the GPA would be better served taking players out of the firing line when it comes to discord at local level. “The appointment of regional reps in the GPA never sat comfortably with me because in my experience, the reps are players and the last thing they want to be doing is getting into conflict with managers and county boards about things like how well squads are looked after.
“If I was in the GPA, I’d appoint four independent regional directors working in conjunction with the GPA at national level. There would then be a reporting structure that the players could use freely. Bursaries are another thing that needs changing. Bursaries have to be welcomed but only a select few get them.”
Curran doesn’t spare the GAA’s Central Council either for ignoring what he regards as several well thought-out blueprints to alter the All-Ireland football championship.
“I find it incredible that so much time went into formulating these proposals from Kevin McStay’s to Jim McGuinness’s to Carlow and they have all now been dismissed really out of hand. A complete blind eye has been turned to the proposals that seemed to have the best interests of the players in mind. It was such a ham-fisted process, I thought.
“The Tommy Murphy-type situation – that’s not a sustainable model. When the GAA should be embellishing competitions, they’re doing the opposite. It’s doing nothing for player welfare. I said before the games are dying on their feet and it’s going to get worse before it gets better and I believe the GPA are complicit some way in this in terms of not using a stronger hand in putting their case forward.
“Not one of them (proposals) was really looked at. I saw the president (Aogán Ó Fearghail) say it’s good that people are thinking about the games but that’s really a facetious comment to make. It’s very difficult to change an organisation like the GAA that is one big bureaucracy.
“This year, we’re going to see another championship of shadow boxing between May and July and really only boils down to three or four games. I can’t see why that’s for the greater good.”
Curran is of the mind that, like in hurling, not all teams deserve to play in the All-Ireland SFC. “I came under pressure last year for comments I made about (the standard of) the likes of London and Longford. Roscommon haven’t been too far away from that either. In competitions around the world like the Premier League, there’s a gradient to the top and to the bottom. There isn’t in the Gaelic football. It’s a rite of passage to play in the football championship, but not in hurling.
“Football has been so very slow to adopt such thinking. The only way to get change is appointing a select committee with the power of veto to adapt rule changes and championship structures.
“There are too many vested interests. It’s a bit like why we can’t look after the Shannon in terms of floods because there are about 25 vested interests.”
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