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Earley: Response to critical O'Rourke column shone a light on the GPA's good work

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Dermot Earley and Jim Gavin

Dermot Earley and Jim Gavin

Dermot Earley and Jim Gavin

DERMOT EARLEY believes the recent controversy over Colm O'Rourke's newspaper critique of the Gaelic Players Association was actually a good thing, because it shone a spotlight on what the GPA does with its funding from Croke Park.

The GPA president admits even he was surprised by the extent of the programmes run by the players' body before O'Rourke's column sparked controversy last October.

Among the more pointed remarks aired by the Meath legend-turned-pundit was that the GPA no longer exists "as a radical body acting on behalf of players", while he was deeply critical of its fundraising drives in the United States.

DEFENDED

However, Earley has defended the GPA's money-raising ventures on Stateside while simultaneously being funded by Croke Park (an €8.75m deal spread over five years was unveiled in January 2011). "There's a huge amount of programmes that they do," said the retired Kildare star, just back from GAA/GPA's All Stars football tour to Boston.

"I'm pretty sure that they get 80pc of their funding from the GAA but with the amount of programmes - particularly with scholarships and player development programmes as well - they do require the extra funding so that these programmes are available, keep improving and provide more.

"When a player is in trouble, when they require a bit of advice, whether it be personal, financial, business development, mental health, (it's important) that the money is there. So it's essential that the GPA keeps fundraising."

Asked, then, if he believed the recent criticism was unwarranted, Earley replied: "Colm (O'Rourke) asked a few questions, and the GPA responded. I think the outcome of that was that people were made actually aware of the huge amount that they do.

"In a way, when you look at Colm's article, I think the response was actually a good thing because it went out into the public domain - the work the GPA do - and not a lot of people were fully aware of that."

He added: "The response that Dessie (Farrell) gave to that in the Sunday Independent was very substantial and highlighted all the programmes that we do. Even for myself, it was a bit of a learning curve to look at all the available facilities, courses and programmes."

TWEETS

The GPA's response to the original column - via a series of player tweets - prompted even more media criticism. However, Earley maintained it was important that the outside public knew exactly what the association was about.

"People are wondering what it is, sometimes, that we do," he pointed out. "You have to remember that there's 2,100 members and there's a huge amount of work that they do and it's important that the work continues.

"I know myself that when you are finished with the game, you can be left in a kind of a hollow place. Your life revolved around playing football and when that's finished, something else has to take its place. I've used the GPA, the programmes they have, myself and hopefully a lot of people will."


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