Dessie Farrell: 'We need to take care of the physical and emotional wellbeing of players'
GPA President Dessie Farrell was a picture of indifference when asked his thoughts on the papers published by the GAA suggesting resolutions to the issues of player burnout and fixture saturation, and retains little optimism that a favourable reconciliation will ever be reached.
The convergence of Championship campaigns with the club game has long-since been a source of discord, with Farrell and the GPA among many others advocating for the schedule of elite GAA to be streamlined for the sake of the athletes involved.
GAA director general Paraic Duffy put forward a series of proposals at Croke Park on Tuesday, including extra-time in All-Ireland finals to avoid replays and the abolition of the U-21 football championship
When the topic of the potential amendments was broached with the 1995 All-Ireland winner at Web Summit today, he failed to address it directly, though was quick to point out the hardships endured by the players he represents.
“I definitely think it’s a serious issue in the game,” he said. “One of the biggest challenges we have in the game currently is to come up with a set of solutions that meets all the different needs and vested interests of various groups and it’s a massive, massive challenge.
“Particularly in relation to player welfare and the physical and emotional dimension of that. Essentially borne out of over-training and how that can have a very definite physical impact and it can also have an emotional impact on the well-being of the athlete. And on the psychological well-being, and then in other areas of life like career, work or education."
He also alluded to the punishing expectations on athletes in third level education and how it is greatly different to almost anywhere else.
Moreover, while he admitted it was positive there seemed to be early signs of discourse on such matters, he was sceptical of any immediate breakthroughs.
“We’ve published a report earlier in the year that specified particularly between the ages of 18 and 21 it’s a massive challenge for elite level athletes in that whole area," he said
“They have to serve so many different masters in terms of coaches and teams with who they play, which could be four or five at the same time of the year, which is unheard of in any other sport or any other area of the world.
“Our recommendations involve reducing the age profile of the U21s to U20s and reducing the different initiatives to offset the physical and psychological issues.
“The debate will go on and I’m not sure we’ll find the solution required, but at least we’re discussing it in the right way."