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Farrell dismisses 'talent drain' fear

DESPITE AFL plans to set up an academy in Ireland under the stewardship of Tadhg Kennelly, there is no chance of a 'talent drain' Down Under, according to GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell.

Farrell, who managed the Dublin minor footballers in 2011, described Ciaran Kilkenny's proposed move to the AFL as "hugely disappointing for Dublin" but doesn't see a host of Irish youngsters leaving the GAA behind for a shot at professional sport.

Kilkenny's Dublin team-mate Jack McCaffrey has also been linked with a move Down Under, as has Louth starlet Ciaran Byrne.

It's understood that a number of the All-Ireland winning Tipperary minor team have also been scouted, with Melbourne club Carlton prominent.

"I'm not sure of the details of (Kennelly's Academy) but it'd make sense for Tadhg to try and set something up like that, given his connections and that he knows the scene here," Farrell said.


"But is it going to make much difference in terms of the drain? It's debatable. There was a change to the system in Australia which doesn't make it as attractive for clubs to go after Irish players because they are not deemed international players anymore.

"So you're making a decision between one fella who might be a footballer and someone who is Australian and knows the game and has grown up with the game and you know he's talented. A lot of clubs have shied away from that."

Farrell also acknowledged that despite the closed season, a number of inter-county panels were training, and he expressed concern that some were being asked to train without receiving expenses or meals.

"It's not that we've had any formal complaints but as we go digging, you realise that you don't have to scratch the surface too far maybe to discover that this is a problem," he said.

"Like the training ban just isn't happening. It's been contravened left, right and centre."

And while a proposal for a staggered training ban will go before Congress in April, Farrell stressed that any moratorium should be based around the individual player and that the issue needs further exploration.

"It's difficult to bring in one approach that would suit everyone's needs," said Farrell, at the announcement that Donegal footballer Paul Durcan, Sligo hurler Patrick Quinn and former Louth hurler Michael Martin had been granted scholarship places on the GPA/DCU executive MBA programme.

"If it's supposed to be about player welfare, well let's make it about that, as opposed to anything else that it could be accused of doing.

"I'd be inclined to pull people together who operate in these environments, rather than people who are slightly removed from it, making decisions, that are going to be imposed on everyone else.

"You need to talk to the players, you need to talk to the coaches and try and develop a solution that will tackle the issue in a more comprehensive fashion than has been done to date.

"To me, you should avoid introducing rules that are too difficult to police.

"I'd be more inclined to leave it up to counties themselves and deal with the individual players at the centre of this issue, by making sure that he is getting his proper rest and recovery.

"I'd make sure that there's somebody responsible for ensuring that each player on the squad has a four-week window or a six-week window -- I'm no expert -- but they definitely need a break, and it is not happening."

Irish Independent