Former Kildare star quits as CEO to resume career with Defence Forces
If Dermot Earley's appointment as GPA chief-executive was no surprise, the announcement of his departure came as a major shock.
Having been a prominent figure in the organisation for several years, he served at executive and officer level between 2013 and February last year when he took over from Dessie Farrell as CEO.
Fifty weeks on, he has stunned the membership by resigning from the top job in the inter-county players' organisation to return to the Defence Forces, where he had been Officer Commanding the 2nd Brigade Military Police Company prior to taking leave of absence.
"After almost one year in the job, I felt I had a decision to make. Despite having enjoyed the past year with the GPA, I have come to the view that my career is with the Defence Forces. It has been a difficult decision, but I believe the right one," he wrote in a resignation letter to members.
GPA chairman and Limerick hurler Séamus Hickey will take over as interim CEO while the recruitment process for Earley's successor is under way.
"Having spoken to Dermot in recent weeks, I fully understand and respect his decision to return to the Defence Forces and continue his career there," Hickey said.
"Meanwhile, we will all have to work that bit harder to help deliver the quality work of the GPA."
The position of deputy CEO is also vacant, following Aidan Gordon's departure last year, while they are also looking to fill the role of communications director.
There have been other changes too, leaving the GPA a much-altered organisation - certainly in terms of personnel - from a few years ago.
Farrell served as CEO from 2003 to 2016, the year when they concluded a €6.2 million partnership deal with the GAA.
It was heralded as a significant success for the GPA as it included increased mileage rates and expenses, a nutrition allowance and the establishment of a special fund for former inter-county players.
The arrangement is due to expire next year so one of the first priorities for Earley's successor will be to begin work on a new deal.
The existing arrangement has ended much of the public bickering that went on for many years between the GPA and GAA.
It has also led to suggestions that the players' group no longer possesses the edge that marked their formative decade.
However, the GPA would argue that the latest deal with the GAA improved players' conditions in a manner never previously experienced.
The Club Players' Association has been far more vocal than the GPA since their launch last year but that was to be expected since they are not formally recognised by the GAA.
The GPA plans to begin the process of replacing Earley immediately but since his resignation will have come as a surprise, it's unlikely that any front-runner will emerge for some weeks.
Hickey will lead the GPA in the short-term but it's not known if he would have any interest in becoming the next CEO. He took over as chairman in 2015 when Donal Óg Cusack joined Clare hurlers as coach.
Other prominent names in the GPA leadership are former Galway hurler David Collins (president) and current Dublin footballer Paul Flynn (secretary).
Kilkenny hurler Richie Hogan was among those on the GPA's negotiating team that struck the latest deal with the GAA two years ago.
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