Sunday 18 March 2018

Some of the extra revenue generated by GAA must go to player welfare – Cooper

Colm Cooper
Colm Cooper
Marie Crowe

Marie Crowe

KERRY star Colm Cooper believes the GAA needs to do more for players who are forced out of work by injury. Cooper is recovering from a knee operation and is on sick leave from his job in AIB.

"I think with some of the revenue that is being created in the GAA, definitely they should be looking at player welfare," said Cooper.

"Especially for people, who are less fortunate than me, those who are out of work and things like that. That is maybe something the GAA and GPA could look at, creating a process for those who are out of work."

Cooper ruptured his cruciate knee ligament in a club game for Dr Crokes against Castlebar Mitchels in February. On several occasions throughout his career he has seen other players suffer a similar fate, and many of those have been left out of pocket as a result of being unable to work.

The former Kerry captain says he is one of the lucky ones as his employer is very understanding. He knows this isn't the case for everyone and thinks the GAA should look at providing compensation for those players who need it

"I think it is something that should be explored and, in fairness, the players are the ones that the 80,000 people who go to Croke Park are going to watch. So it is only right and proper that these players are looked after in some way, shape or form. I am not talking about getting paid here, I'm talking about being reasonable when someone is out of work because of an injury they picked up in Croke Park, Thurles or wherever, that they are looked after."

Cooper also feels that with GAA revenue on the rise the current government grant should be restored to its original value. For some players, this was close to €2,000 when it was first paid out six years ago.

"When people hear you are getting a grant they perceive that it is a couple of thousand euro, which isn't the case anymore. For most players, it is a couple of hundred euro. It is pittance really when you think of what is coming in and out of the GAA."

Cooper has been playing for Kerry for 12 years but when he was a child he combined Gaelic football with soccer and he wanted to play in the Premier League. However, at 16 he opted to focus on his Kerry career. Now, looking at other sports stars at the top of their game, he admits it would have been nice to be a professional in his chosen sport.

"If you asked me would I have loved to have got paid to play GAA, of course. Does it stop me giving everything I can for it? Absolutely not. Some people would say they'd never want to be a professional GAA player, I will definitely say I did. I wish I could get up every morning and train once or twice a day to get ready for matches and be a full-time GAA player. Absolutely, no question, I definitely would. Some people don't have that view but it's definitely not going to happen in my time. I don't know if it is ever going to happen really."

With the preparation for Gaelic games becoming more professional every year, the pay-for-play argument is regularly brought up. If it ever came to pass, then Cooper would be concerned about the future of the club game.

"I'll make an example. If Kerry owned my contract, we'll say, I don't think I would be able to play with Dr Crokes too often. I think that's the way it would work and because the GAA is built on clubs all over the country, that's why I probably don't think it would work."

When it comes to training, playing and overall preparation, Cooper is a model player and would have made the perfect pro. Returning to full fitness in order to serve his county once more is top of his list of priorities, so much so that rehab for his injury is coming before his career.

Even when it comes to post-game analysis, he treats it as a professional would. And after a loss – the 2011 All-Ireland final against Dublin being the toughest so far – it takes him a while to pick himself up again.

"I analyse so much, maybe over-analyse at times. I ask myself questions: 'Why did that performance happen? Did I not train right? Did I not prepare right? Was my diet okay? Did I cut corners? Have I rested up properly?' That's the sort of analysis I do. If you look at golf and the analysis they do, it's stats, it's driving, it's putting – before a golfer had just a swing coach. Now they have a psychologist, a fitness coach, dietician, a team of people."

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