Time for GAA to go pro, says Limerick legend Ciaran Carey
Limerick hurling legend Ciaran Carey firmly believes the GAA should turn professional, but claims the Association is "too afraid to make the leap".
The former Limerick captain also believes running the championship in a system similar to the Champions League "could be good for the game".
A decade after hanging up his inter-county boots, Carey has witnessed radical changes in the GAA. He includes in this the physicality of players, focus on body conditioning and the number of personnel behind every inter-county team.
He has watched as the amount of sacrifice expected from players at the top level has also reached new heights, on and off the pitch.
Now, he contends that "overhauling" the current system and "going pro" is a logical step to ensure balance and fairness for every inter-county player and inter-county team.
"It would take a fair leap to try it, but I think it would actually open up the door for so-called 'weaker teams' coming in and everyone would get extra games," said Carey, who now manages his home club Patrickswell.
"The system now has been there for years. I definitely think it needs to be looked at to keep it more attractive.
"So if you ask me if the GAA should be professional - yes, of course it should," he said, adding "not every player is lucky enough to fall into the marketing and become a brand player."
In order for this to work, he believes ground rules could be put in place to buy players within their own county.
"They've tried everything else, why not say there is a bit of a purse there for Munster finalists for €500 a man, and the further you go, there is a few extra bob in it," he said.
"I'm not saying you go out and play your first round of the championship and you get €2,000 a man. Nothing like that, start off small and work your way up. I don't think that would break the bank or break the GAA."
Carey also believes the GAA should provide more counselling support for retired players.
Meanwhile, he predicts a narrow win for Limerick in today's Munster senior hurling championship semi-final against rivals Tipperary, with home advantage for his native county crucial. "My head would be saying Limerick but, if Tipperary have the right attitude, it could be a cracker of a game," he said.
"I would take it for granted that they are still fairly wounded over the last two years, so I'd say Tipperary will give them everything in the first 10 or 15 minutes, but the ground will definitely be a huge added advantage."
Carey believes Limerick have stronger ammunition with Cian Lynch in the fray and Kevin Downes, David Reidy, John Fitzgibbon on the bench. However, he believes the suspension of Seanie Tobin is a big loss.
The player was sent off within seconds of his introduction as a substitute in the final quarter of last month's win over Clare.
"These things happen in the heat of battle, and the way the modern game has gone, any lift of the hurley at all is going to be spotted by the referee and the linesman and it's going to be penalised.
"To be fair, usually, any sub that comes on greets their man with a belt of the hip and the shoulder, but Seanie made the mistake of lifting the hurl.
"To be fair I thought the referee was under pressure because of the earlier incident before half time," he said. "If that incident didn't happen, I couldn't see Seanie Tobin getting sent off."
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