'We need to develop players in a wider context and to recognise that employment, health and well-being are very important'
TIME was when a hot shower, training gear and perhaps a couple of tickets to a big match might be enough to keep most GAA players happy.
But the spectre of spiralling unemployment, which is threatening to engulf clubs and lead to a flood of emigration of out-of-work players, has galvanised parts of the organisation into launching a jobs drive for its members.
An estimated 400,000 players are involved in the GAA, and earlier this month Donegal's senior football manager, John Joe Doherty, expressed the fear that his team faced disintegration through emigration.
This prompted him to appeal to employers to give his players a job. Now, such is the concern about the deepening recession and its possible affects on Gaelic games participation rates, that the Gaelic Players' Association -- representing 2,000 inter-county players -- has set up a website jobs board in the hope of linking up out of work players with job vacancies.
Meanwhile, Limerick GAA is drawing up its own directory of players and GAA members specifying their jobs skills in an effort to link them with GAA-orientated employers who may be able to offer them work.
When completed, the directory will be circulated to all 69 Limerick GAA clubs.
Three months ago a GPA survey of senior inter-country players found that 12pc had lost their jobs and a fresh survey to be completed shortly is expected to show a marked rise in that figure. "The next couple of months will be very telling and once the Championships begin you will have a better gauge of what players will be available and whether, because of the recession, names are missing from squads," said GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell yesterday.
"We are hoping that GAA-orientated companies with vacancies might look to the players first and foremost."
Since it posted its jobs board on its website, the GPA has received a substantial number of queries from players about work.
It has presented a new challenge to the association, which is anxious to become more actively involved in the players' welfare and education.
If it gets the funding it needs, it wants to offer mentoring programmes, career advice, preparation of CVs, interview skills and work placement for players. The GPA even hopes to have its own full-time employment officer.
"We want to move away from the traditional view of player welfare that only involved a hot shower, the provision of some training gear or tickets for a match," said Mr Farrell. "We need to look to develop players in a wider context and to recognise that employment, health and well-being are very important."
A GAA spokesman acknowledged that many clubs faced losing players.
The Limerick initiative was one of the first "formal stabs" at stopping the player drain and while GAA headquarters would not rule out becoming involved at national level in a similar jobs networking project, such initiatives were best organised at local level, he said.