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Joe Brolly likens GAA stars to "indentured slaves" and calls for massive overhaul of fixture system


Dungiven's Joe Brolly, a self-confessed Ballinderryophile

Dungiven's Joe Brolly, a self-confessed Ballinderryophile

Dungiven's Joe Brolly, a self-confessed Ballinderryophile

Joe Brolly has spoken out about his grave concerns for the welfare of modern GAA stars and the consequences of the commitment they are being forced to give.

Speaking on Off The Ball on Newstalk, the pundit explained how he feels that drinking bans,  extensive training regimes, insatiable managers, a win-at-all-costs ethos and a packed fixture list was putting far too much pressure on inter-county players.

The All-Ireland winner feels players personal and professional welfare is being put at risk.

"The players are little more now than indentured slaves," he said.

"We've imported professional practices into a sport that is community based. The boards are complicit in this.

"The winter training ban, which is the hierarchy's only attempt to deal with the problem, is just laughable. It's lip service.

"We've a real problem on our hands because we've got all these young lads between 20 and 30 drifting between scholarship to scholarship.

"They're not able to work full-time, they're not able to build careers.

"Managers are coming in and wringing every last drop out of them.

"The ethos we've allowed to develop is win at all cost.

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"We went through the Derry team, the Donegal team, the Armagh team and almost 90pc of the lads are students. Most of lads do not have careers. They drift from a wee coaching job here to a wee coaching job there.

"Their life has to be put on hold.

He continued: "You look at Aaron Kernan, he has a wife and a child and he's trying to build a career now. One of the great footballers in Ulster has walked away.

"A lot of the big stars of Ulster football are unemployed."

Brolly believes county boards and the Gaelic Players Association have been part of the problem.

"The GPA are a big part of the problem now. The GPA trumpet the welfare work that it does and to an extent that is good, any highlighting of mental health issues are important, but in terms of real welfare, the playing game at county level in unhealthy," he added.

"Players are spending a lot of time doing very little between training sessions and wasting valuable years of their lives. That's the real concern."

He put forward a simple but radical solution to the issue.

"The urgent thing that needs to be done is to re-balance the fixtures," he said

"The National League should start in January and finish in March, the Championship should start in April and finish at the end of June.

"Then you have got June to December for the clubs. That would be a bold statement but it's what we need.

"It'll set out a basis for the restoration of the GAA."

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