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Is The GAA In Trouble?

Boy but things seem to be hotting up for the GAA. The media is full of the problems that are facing the Association and what might, should or could happen in the not so distant future.  Declan Brennan and the Club Players Association has added to those problems or become the catalyst for more urgent attention being given to face the problems. Colm O’Rourke in Sunday’s Independent is rather scathing of the GAA and its leaders. Joe Brolly is talking about the problems for players and many other pundits are speaking and writing in the same vein.

I have been a club man all my life almost but over the past few years my whole acceptance of the GAA has changed and I began to see it as two distinct portions of the one organisation. At the top it seemed all about money and big business and about control. The county football and the Championship in particular was the only show in town and it dictated the annual programme. We have a number of examples of the ’top’ making decisions which impacted on the clubs and lesser GAA volunteers. We witnessed where business and money was more important in decision making. I have watched as club activity was squeezed out to make room for money making select activity and all the while we were pacified by being told that the money was being ploughed back into clubs for coaching etc.

Unfortunately that may have been so but it was restricted in its vision as club players are fed up with training and coaching while at the same time getting few games and then only when the rain is pouring down on the dark autumn and winter evenings in waterlogged pitches. Over the years the discontent was evident as for example when the All-Ireland semi-finals and finals came along, the ordinary GAA man could not get tickets but the best seats were occupied by many who never went to a game from one September to the next.  However even with all of this discontent from players and supporters the top kept doing what they were doing and thinking up more schemes to get more money while the organisation was being upheld at grassroots level by community volunteers giving their time, energy and talents to promote and maintain the GAA at parish level for the sake of the huge number of people involved at that level. Coaches trained young boys and girls and developed their talent only to see the best snapped up for county duty and installed in a regime of training, development and enhancement until their lives were given over to one purpose – win a provincial championship, or at least provide the opposition for the eventual and predictable winners and meanwhile, the clubs who trained them initially have to do without their services for the best part of the year.  The top will hold these ‘winners’ up as the point to be reached by Gaelic Players and produce expectations beyond reach for the ordinary club player. It makes for good Television and attracts good sponsorship.

If things were proper there would have been no need for the Club Players Association and the GAA from top down would have foreseen the problems arising and would have done something to rectify the situation. Pauric Duffy has always been a Club man and has always stressed the importance of the club and the fact that it is central to all GAA activity but it seems that he is not being allowed to make the changes he wants in order to restore parity to the club player. Indeed once the GPA was recognised by the GAA it was too late as the seed was sown and the County Player was now most important. Big money has been earmarked for the GPA and money is changing hands in an organisation which still tries to make us believe that it is still an amateur organisation. Once that has begun and it becomes the accepted norm more and more people will want a slice of the cake and say farewell to the GAA as founded in 1884 and administered for a century. Society is changing and never before was an organisation like the GAA been so badly needed in our communities but it would now seem that they are handing over the reins to other sporting bodies. The GAA needs to stock-take immediately and draw up the plan for the next decade and further. Lets define what we need from the GAA and how we can get it to a place where it can deliver, even if that, especially if that means, getting rid of those who hold power for the wrong reasons. The CPA is looking for changes to Fixtures so that club players will get more games at a better time of the year – that is only one of the problems that need to be faced.

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