GPA facing sponsor hunt after Halifax withdrawal
The Gaelic Players Association looks set to lose one of its triumvirate of key sponsors following Bank of Scotland's decision to scale down its Irish operation.
The closure of the bank's retail business under the Halifax brand could directly affect the players' body's twinning programme and fair play scheme, which Halifax sponsor.
But even if they do lose the sponsorship, the GPA are determined to press on with both schemes this year.
The twinning programme, which has been up and running for two years, involves linking some of the top hurling teams in the country with some of the game's minnows.
Shared information, regular visits and clinics hosted by leading players in the counties where they are twinned form the basis of one of the GPA's most successful initiatives.
All the Liam McCarthy Cup teams take a weaker county under their wing for a year, with Cork and Fermanagh pairing off, Waterford liaising with Cavan and Clare linking up with Louth.
Last year, three Dublin hurlers travelled to Warwickshire as part of the scheme.
Halifax and the GPA were entering the third year of a three-year sponsorship deal before news emerged yesterday that the bank were to close their network of retail branches.
The GPA don't have any confirmation that the sponsorship is at an end, but they are intent on keeping both schemes alive, either by funding the scheme from their own central finances or by securing a new sponsor.
Late last year, the GPA signed up to an agreement to be the officially recognised players' body, a deal that netted them €250,000 per annum towards administration costs and another €1.1m for player welfare schemes which will be rolled out over the next few weeks.
That funding from the GAA will leave the GPA a lot less dependent on sponsorship from private commercial interests and allow them to absorb any fall-out from the likes of Halifax's probable departure.
Halifax also sponsored the fair play scheme, which rewarded achievement off the field. Clare's Tony Griffin and Galway's Joe Canning have won the hurling awards, with Fermanagh's Marty McGrath and Kildare's Dermot Earley recipients in football.
The GPA's two other main sponsors are Opel, who sponsor the 'player of the year', 'team of the year' and monthly player awards, and Energise, who have been core sponsors since the early days of the association.
In a separate development, the GPA are to set up a hurling development group to look at ways hurlers can help to promote the game. They will convene their first meeting this week.