Friday, November 14, 2008

Ulster GAA is ahead of the game

Over 400 club volunteers will participate in the second Ulster GAA Club and Community Conference at the Europa Hotel, Belfast tomorrow.

This year’s conference is focused on improving the capacity of clubs and volunteers across the province as the theme of this year’s conference: “Strengthening community cohesion though the development of the GAA clubs and volunteers” underlines.

As part of the consultation process for the new Ulster GAA strategy 2009-2015 a specific part of the conference has been set aside where participants will take part in a one-hour club feedback forum were club officials can make their voice heard on the issues currently facing the GAA in the province of Ulster.

Every province should take note and follow suit.

Revealing Comments from Ó hAilpin

It's depressing to read about Frank Murphy's dictatorship versus the Liberation Player Rebels everyday. It's Séan Óg's turn to have a blast today on Setanta.

What Ó hAilpin's comments ultimately reveal is the growing tension between expectations of the elite players and standards in GAA. The GPA has been beating the GAA over the head with the stick that some administrators (officially) and managers (unofficially) get paid so why shouldn't they receive some financial incentives for their participation too. At the same time they are demanding that the game be run like a professional sport and that the conditions under which they train and play--from facilities, to medical advice, to nutrition etc.--should also be as high as any other professional sport out there. That's fair enough, given the time, effort and commitment they put into the game and the money generated from large attendances at matches.

But, if the GAA wants to protect funding for the majority of the people involved at local level, and rightly refuses to officially pay managers, then where are the mangers with the expertise and experience of a sufficiently high standard to meet the elite players' demands going to come from? Many county boards and clubs refuse to pay (and that's still the case with a lot out there despite the current perception...this is based on my own anecdotal evidence, just like the counter prevailing view) and look internally to appoint the best available.

The problem is that the players have deemed McCarthy "not good enough". That's the spark that has ignited this dispute, although it is now being used to settle a long running grudge between Murphy and the players.

How long before other county panels adopt the same attitude?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Players are the GAA’s crown jewels says GPA chief Farrell

Dessie's not one to let the opportunity for an argument pass by, and no doubt got his buddy and biographer, Potty to help him pen and a swift and acidic response to Paddy Heaney's piece (Time has come for GPA to stop asking for more).

Earlier this year Paraic Duffy pleaded for a better relationship between the GPA and those that do not share the same views, reminding the GPA that it is not helpful for them to "use dismissive or intemperate language towards those who hold a contrary view on player-related issues". That call certainly fell on deaf ears, even though Dessie says, he "tried to temper his response".

Dessie makes it clear that any formal recognition of the GPA will have to involve the GAA bankrolling the players' association so that it can apply for "an expanded package of player welfare services". Dessie's wish list of employment programmes, health services and education initiatives would make Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro proud. One further step on the slippery slope to professionalism.
Except Dessie thinks he can cloak the intention as a guise to protect Gaelic's amateur status. "We can safeguard our amateur status by ensuring we achieve excellence in the area of welfare" Dessie boldly claims. Because if you don't he warns "this has the potential to set us on another collision course with the GAA regarding sponsorship, TV and image rights". That's code for we want control over the money generated from these rights and we will strike if we don't get our way.

Most alarmingly, and this betrays Dessie's true vision for the GAA, he sees the GAA as a "product" which we must make the "best in the market" to compete with other codes.
Lord help us all.

Time has come for GPA to stop asking GAA for more

Paddy Heaney of the Irish News has had enough of Dessie's rants. (The full article is posted on

While I don't agree with everything he has to say, he makes some good points. 

If, as Dessie claims, it was all about the elite players--"Without them there is nothing" to quote from his speech at the GPA dinner on Friday-- then as Paddy says, why is the Railway Cup not a roaring success? Fair point.

And while Paddy acknowledges that the GAA hasn't always treated players so well, he explains how Alan Simpson, the Linfield goalkeeping coach, who was part of Ross Carr's backroom team for Down, was "overwhelmed by how well Down's county footballers were treated and hugely impressed by the way no expense was spared in meeting their needs". This echoes Babs Keating's comments that the Tipperary squad of 2007 weren't "left for anything" with the County Board spending €870,000--that's a lot of money--training teams with no success to show for it. 

And that's the part Dessie doesn't mention. He focuses on the empty part of the glass all the time. 

The GAA currently allocates nearly 50% of its income on expenses that are directly related to inter-county teams: 14%  on match and competition costs; 18% payments to counties (we know from the comments above how most of that is spent); and 14% on player welfare. (Source is GAA Annual Report 2008

Dessie states that the GAA is going to have to fund the GPA--and pay Dessie's salary!

If the GAA, ultimately, does end up having to fund the GPA then another part of the Association is going to have to pay--that will mean a reduction in funding for facilities, or funding for coaching and games development. 

Then the real losers will be the clubs and volunteers who work so hard to train and coach future generations of inter-county players.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Europe's GAA season ends

The final tournament of the European Gaelic Football season was played in Maastricht last Saturday. Belgium GAA won the tournament and secured the European championship

The Irish Times had a great feature on growing interest in Gaelic games in Asia last Saturday. As in Asia there's a great social dimension to involvement in GAA in Europe, but that shouldn't take away from the high standard of football played and the commitment of those involved. Traveling to The Hague, Maastricht, Munich, Paris, Rennes and Budapest to play GAA may sound a little glamorous (the GAA glamorous!), but it also takes a lot of time and can be quite costly for those playing.

A big "well done" to Belgium for their victory and to all those involved in European GAA in 2008. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

GAA can't compete, shouldn't try to compete

Who's the Irish Independent journalist writing under the alias ""? Any ideas?

He seems to be implying today that as long as GAA remains amateur it won't be able to compete for young talent with Aussie Rules, soccer or rugby.  

And how exactly does "the.couch" think Gaelic could "compete" as a career choice if it did become professional? 

The GAA will never be able to match the earnings or marketing exposure of these professional sports. Surely, if GAA did become professional then those talented enough to choose whether to continue playing Gaelic for a few grand or to play one of the other sports professionally for pots of filthy lucre are then going to make their choice based on financial considerations. Soccer players, for one, are not known for their loyalty in choosing clubs over money.  

So how would the GAA be any better off than it is now?

An Spalpin on the Cork mess

An Spailpín is always worth a read. Today's article on the so-called "Cork hurlers" merits a few moments of your time.

Not only is he handy with the prose, but also with photoshop, as the above photo shows!

I wish, however, he'd enable the comments function so that others can contribute.