Saturday 21 April 2018

'The 32 counties are setting the agenda': Club Players Association launches plans to change GAA calendar

9 January 2017; Declan Brennan, Secretary CPA, left, and Micheal Briody Chairman CPA, at the official launch of the Club Players Association at Ballyboden St Enda’s GAA in Firhouse Rd, Ballyroan, Dublin. The CPA are calling for all GAA Club members to register at www.gaaclubplayers.com to help ‘Fix The Fixtures’ Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
9 January 2017; Declan Brennan, Secretary CPA, left, and Micheal Briody Chairman CPA, at the official launch of the Club Players Association at Ballyboden St Enda’s GAA in Firhouse Rd, Ballyroan, Dublin. The CPA are calling for all GAA Club members to register at www.gaaclubplayers.com to help ‘Fix The Fixtures’ Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Conor McKeon

Conor McKeon

The newly-established Club Players Association will seek a significantly truncated inter-county calendar ending with both All-Ireland finals played off by the August Bank Holiday.

And there will be “no jobs for the boys,” in the organisation according to their secretary, in what appeared to be a reference to the GPA.

Speaking at their formal launch in the clubhouse of Ballyboden St Enda’s in Firhouse this morning, secretary Declan Brennan also revealed that they have submitted a motion to congress for the GAA to formally recognise the CPA, something they were “optimistic” about achieving.

He warned, however, that in the event of the failure of that motion, the CPA would be forced into “a totally different ball game".

“We won’t take that lightly,” he warned. “We have the energy.”

Today was a declaration of intent from the new group rather than a detailed outline of their methods.

The CPA and their stated goal to ‘Fix the Fixtures’ are certain to have the backing of the vast majority of GAA members, though their ability to influence policy on an official level, not known for its swift pace of change, will be vital to their success or otherwise.

A 15-strong top-table consisting mostly of the newly-formed CPA executive relayed their own experiences of a fixtures programme almost unanimously accepted as dysfunctional.

Whether they intend to change the machinery of power within the GAA or simply influence it wasn’t addressed in detail.

Brennan outlined however, the “disconnect between the club player, the administrator and the top brass,” that had forced the CPA into formation.

“Our biggest problem is ourselves,” he admitted. “I think this is a turning point in our Association.”

“If we get our house in order, in five years time, the CPA might not need to exist.”

Quite how far they intend to go to achieve their aims is unclear.

“If it has to be radical, it has to be radical,” said Micheál Briody, the Association’s Chairman, stressing the vital necessity to “remove the layers of bureaucracy.”

“The structure and bureaucracy in the GAA are the enemy.”

Club players have experienced “an overriding sense of frustration, powerlessness and sense of futility,” Briody went on.

“To look after the emotional and physical wellbeing of the vast majority of players in the GAA. To promote a players-first policy.

“Shorten the provincial championships. To grant parity of esteem and a consistent, principled approach to fixture making.”

“The club player,” Briody added, “are not the burden of the Association. They are the Association.”

Though one of the primary stated tenants of their mission statement is “To get as many club players registered to the CPA,”, Brennan said “it wasn’t important” how many members they had.

“Whether it’s 1,000 players or 100,000 players, we’ll represent them.”

The growth and influence of the GPA has been “a disaster” for club players, according to Brennan.

Accepting that their inter-county equivalent had “made the life of the inter-county player a lot easier,” he added “now it has to stop.”

He clarified that there would be “no jobs for the boys,” and “no salaries,” in the new body, insisting that the CPA would “remain on the outside,” and that they “were not going to be ‘Yes People’.”

“The GPA represent one per cent of players,” Briody added. “We represent everyone else.”

Other members of a high-profile top table shared their own experiences of a dysfunctional fixtures calendar.

Wexford’s 1996 All-Ireland winning manager Liam Griffin stressed that there were “legacy issues,” for which this generation of GAA members were responsible.

Acknowledging that the CPA had “no authority unless we have people,” he added to the clamour pronouncing the GAA as “too democratic,” and needing an “overarching body,” which would control and manage fixtures at all levels.

Notably, Griffin added that the CPA “don’t want to diminish the inter-county scene. We want to enhance it,” adding that a discernible disconnect had emerged between those on county panels and their own club team-mates.

Martin McHugh, who took over for a second stint as manager of his native Kilcar last year, revealed he “didn’t realise how bad it had become.”

“There are far too many training sessions for inter-county players and not enough games,” he pointed out.

“The problem, he added, is “easy to solve. A sixth class student could solve it. Less training sessions and more games.

“We’re killing the goose that lays the golden egg.”

On that theme, former Cork footballer Derek Kavanagh explained how he had to retire from the inter-county scene at the age of 30 and by 32, underwent hip replacement surgery on account of over training.

“I wasn’t ready mentally to retire.”

He pronounced the ratio of training sessions to matches as “madness, an absolute waste of time.”

“It’s an idiotic number of sessions needed for a tiny number of matches.”

That this morning’s almost hour-long briefing took place in Ballyboden St Enda’s clubhouse was, Brennan added, “no coincidence.”

“They won an All-Ireland club title last year and had to defend it a week after Dublin won the senior All-Ireland with players who were still drained after being involved with their county.”

“The 32 counties are setting the agenda for the 2,319 clubs,” he went on. “It needs to be the other way around.”

 “We have a timescale. We have a hundred day plan.”

“But,” Brennan concluded, “we won’t be afraid to take radical action.”

*CPA Executive: Micheál Briody, Chairman, St Brigid’s, Meath; Declan Brennan, Secretary, Clontibret, Monaghan; Anthony Moyles, Treasurer, St Paul’s GFC/Dunshaughlin GFC, Meath; Aaron Kernan, Grassroots Co-ordinator, Crossmaglen Rangers, Armagh; Liam Griffin, Fixtures Co-ordinator, St Mary’s Rosslare, Wexford; Kevin Nolan, Player Welfare Co-ordinator, Kilmacud Crokes, Dublin; Paul Kelly, Executive Member, Clan na Gael, Armagh; Greg Devlin, PR, Marketing & Communications Co-ordinator, Emyvale, Monaghan; Michael Higgins, Registration & IT Co-ordinator, Tuam Stars, Galway; Derek Kavanagh, Fixtures Co-ordinator, Nemo Rangers, Cork; Joe Passmore, Executive Member, Eoghan Rua Cúil Raithin CLG, Derry; Shane Curran, Executive Member, St Brigid’s, Roscommon; Liam Noone, Social Media Co-ordinator, Davitts, Mayo.

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