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'Centres of excellence everywhere as the game nose-dives in quality' - Joe Brolly feels elite game is drifting away from the GAA

Joe Brolly (inset) is concerned that top county players are putting their lives on hold to pursue their GAA careers
Joe Brolly (inset) is concerned that top county players are putting their lives on hold to pursue their GAA careers
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Joe Brolly feels increasing elitism in the GAA and a 'sense of entitlement' among budding inter-county stars is a worrying development in the GAA.

The Sunday Independent columnist believes the drive towards a professional culture in our games is spiralling out of control.

Wexford's Lee Chin recently admitted that he was putting his working career on hold to concentrate on hurling full-time sparking a debate on the demands being made of players in the modern game.

The inter-county game is drifting further away from the GAA in the opinion of the 1993 All-Ireland winner.

"The culture is so professional now. The county game has got out of control. The GAA has got out of control and that's why we need a director-general who will lead immediately and hit the ground running and get it back under control," he told Independent.ie's GAA podcast The Throw-In, in association with Allianz.

"In a lot of cases, lads are only starting to venture  into the real world when they're 30-31, when their career is over and they're well behind their colleagues.

"It's a vexing problem but all of these problems have been brought about by the GAA losing control of virtually every part of the organisation from county team managers to county boards.

"County boards losing control of their finances.

"No control over the decisions made in Croke Park. A development programme that's out of control.

"The failure that just because a cheque is brandished in front of our nose that we take it. That we make a decision based on what our principles are.

"As a friend of mine said to me, 'The GAA is eating itself from the inside', and we can see that because the big problems are not being addressed.

"I give it 10-15 years and if we continue on our current course we're not going to have a GAA because the disenchantment will be so great around it.

"We'll have an elite game that's seperates from the rest of the GAA."

Brolly also thinks there is a 'rat race' going on in the underage structures in most counties and clubs are losing out.

"There are centres of excellence everywhere, so-called, as the game nose-dives in quality in most parts of the country," he added.

"Very quickly players are developing a sense of entitlement from the age of 13-14. 'I'm a county player and that's my priority' and the club becomes of secondary importance.

"The game becomes getting on a county team and getting a county tracksuit. All the time the bonds of community are weakening.

"We see this rat race in counties like Derry where we have a flourishing development squad. Club players are feeling as though they are county players first and our senior side is languishing on the bottom of Division Three after spending half a million pounds on it last year.

"There comes a point when we are going to have to create a more sensible association that more accords with the sort of community we want to have here."

He has warned players that, in most cases, the perks associated with being an inter-county differ from county to county and come to a shuddering halt on retirement.

"It reminds me about Johnny Giles' great line about becoming a professional soccer player. He became a professional soccer player at the age of 15 and 20 years later he retired at the age of 15.

"The other essential parts of his life he put on hold.

"Mayo spent €1m on their senior team and we see the privileges they're accorded but it's only temporary. That all falls away once they hit 31-32. That's it.

"What about the other teams that are not in those sort of privileged positions. Lads soldiering for Cavan or Derry or Monaghan.

"In Derry this year we have an interesting experiment in that the rule is that county players will play 15 of the 18 club games. It will be interesting to see how that works out.

"In practice because of how things have been allowed to drift and because there are no centralised rules on these matters, county managers are dictating.

"I was talking to someone recently who I was trying to persuade to go for the director general job and he was articulating these problems so clearly."

Subscribe to The Throw-In, Independent.ie's weekly GAA podcast in association with Allianz, for the best in GAA discussion and analysis every week, with some of the biggest names in football and hurling from Joe Brolly, Tomás Ó'Sé and John Mullane.

Subscribe and listen to The Throw-In podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

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