GAA in major power shift
Earley's shock departure from GPA comes at same time as Croke Park gets ready for new leaders
It's all change in the higher echelons of the GAA, with three of the top seats set to have new occupants in the next few months.
Aogán Ó Fearghaíl's three-year term as president ends four weeks today; director-general Páraic Duffy retires at the end of March and now the Gaelic Players' Association (GPA) are in the market for a new CEO, following Dermot Earley's shock resignation.
He is leaving the position after less than a year at the helm and will return to the Defence Forces, having taken leave of absence to take over as GPA CEO in succession to Dessie Farrell last February.
In a statement issued yesterday, Earley said that while he enjoyed his time at the helm, he would not be continuing.
"I felt I had a decision to make. 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 said.
The announcement will have come came as a major shock to the GPA membership, especially since Earley's predecessor filled the CEO's role for 13 years.
Chairman and Limerick hurler, Seamus Hickey will act as interim CEO until Earley's successor is appointed.
"Having spoken to Dermot in recent weeks, I fully understand and respect his decision to return to the Defence Forces. We will all work that bit harder to help deliver quality work for the GPA," said Hickey.
Meanwhile, the on-field focus is very much on the launch of the Allianz Leagues, which begin this evening, when the highlights will be hurling-football double-headers in Croke Park and Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Pat Gilroy and Kevin Martin take charge of Dublin and Offaly hurlers respectively in Croke Park (5.0) for their first competitive outings in Division 1B.
It takes Gilroy into new territory, having previously managed Dublin footballers for four years, during which they won the All-Ireland title in 2011.
The Dublin-Kildare football clash will follow at 7.0. Dublin are bidding to win the Division 1 title for the fifth time in six seasons while Kildare return to the top flight after being in Division 3 and 2 in recent years.
Cork hurlers and footballers will be in action in the first league games at the recently redeveloped Páirc Uí Chaoimh. The footballers, with new manager Ronan McCarthy in charge, take on Tipperary at 5.0, while the hurlers face Kilkenny at 7.0.
No fewer than 27 games are on tomorrow's schedule. Waterford v Wexford and Clare v Tipperary are the main hurling attractions, while All-Ireland and league champions Galway are fancied to enjoy a smooth take-off against Antrim in Pearse Stadium.
Galway are seeking their ninth successive win, having gone unbeaten since losing to Wexford last February.
Galway footballers, who return to Division 1 after a six-year absence, host Tyrone in Tuam Stadium.
Declan Bonner faces a tough opening game as new Donegal manager when they take on Kerry in Killarney, while All-Ireland runners-up Mayo face Monaghan in Clones.
It's the first time that the hurling and football leagues have started on the same weekend at the end of January. The early start is to facilitate quicker campaigns and earlier finals.
The hurling programme will be completed in eight weeks, one week fewer than the football.
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