Saturday 16 December 2017

Welfare of players has to take precedence in uncertain future

Better structures for the GAA's players, at home and abroad, is the way forward, says Páidí ó Sé

Paidi O Se

W atching the Late Late Show two Fridays ago, I was dismayed to see so many well-known faces talking about the unemployment crisis within the GAA.

It actually made for worrying viewing; there were a lot of All-Ireland medal winners on the stage, telling their stories in an honest and forthright way. Seeing some of the country's biggest names in that situation really highlighted the extent of the crisis.

It's spreading right across the board, from club to county, at an alarming rate, and if the GAA don't act they will lose their most valuable commodities. The unfortunate reality is that emigration is going to be an issue for the foreseeable future and we need to find ways to keep our players in the country. After all, these are the lads we go to see every Sunday.

After this weekend's annual Congress, player welfare should be first and foremost on the GAA's agenda. Not alone are counties losing some of their best players but kids are losing their heroes and if the situation isn't stabilised it could negatively affect the long-term development of the game.

We are faced with increasing competition from other sports and we can't afford to let our superstars leave. Already, there are a fair amount of our people scattered all over the world as a result of the recession. Organising stronger links with the wider GAA community is another area of the game that needs attention from headquarters. Overseas football and hurling need to be arranged in a competitive way.

London don't seem to be at the races. They have a serious influx of quality players, many of whom are coming from Kerry, but they don't seem to be capitalising on their good fortune.

The club scene there is going from strength to strength but the county is struggling to make an impact on a competitive level.

The States are also getting their fair share of talent but I don't understand why there isn't a better representation from New York in the championship. There is no reason why they can't field a decent all-American team. Maybe the GAA need to offer them a carrot; a place in the International Rules series might do the trick. It could provide that little extra bit of enticement needed to get the players interested.

Ultimately, we need to connect with our players overseas, include them more in the GAA, organise events that they can participate in. We need to get them over to Ireland more regularly for competition and tournaments. There are lots of people abroad doing great work on behalf of the Association

but they need assistance to take things to the next level.

Congress on Friday saw the election of the next president of the GAA, Liam O'Neill from Laois. He seems like a man who is well fit for the role. I saw him on TV last weekend and he touched on something important: the underage development of the GAA.

He believes that children need to be playing as many games as possible and I agree completely. An awful lot of work is now being done at grassroots level; we've woken up to the importance of keeping kids interested. Every county has put underage structures in place so if we can build on what we've started and look after the players who keep us watching the games, we will come out the other side of this crisis.

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