GAA Football

Proposed club players' association aims to solve fixtures problem

Former Monaghan coach Declan Brennan will launch a new club players' association at the end of the month
Picture by Philip Walsh

PLANS to form a club players’ association are designed to “help Croke Park rather than go against them”, says the man behind the venture.

Declan Brennan, a two-time Monaghan SFC winner as a player and four-time winner as manager of Clontibret, who also coached his county during a long career on the sidelines, says the sole aim of forming such an association is to solve the fixtures problem.

Brennan says he has received 20,000 messages from people offering support for the venture, which is set to be formally launched at the end of October and will be “player-led”.

“It’s just got to the stage that there’s a lot of anger out there. Contrary to what people might think, it’s to help Croke Park rather than go against them,” Brennan told The Irish News.

“There’s so much red tape and bureaucracy that they have to go through now to even get something minor through. If they look at this long term, it’s about player power and having a genuine interest in having a life outside football, organising the season and condensing it to facilitate the club player.

“I have as many people playing for counties contacting me as I have club players. People forget that county players are club players. They’re going 12 months of the year and they’ve had enough as well, but they’re not going to cut off the hand that feeds them.

“Of course you want to represent your county, of course you want to play in an All-Ireland final. The reality is we’re trying to let them do that and still everybody have a more condensed season that they can plan around themselves.

“We want the county player to have the life that they’re having but, at the same time, they have time to know where they stand. At the minute, they’re going all year around and they’re mentally and physically tired.”

The weekend past provided a glaring example of an issue that has grown wider in recent years, as newly-crowned Donegal intermediate champions Burt forced to play an Ulster club match less than 24 hours after winning their county title.

Brennan, who is a former sports academy director at Dublin College University, believes the introduction of an association for club players will help “put the heart back in” to the GAA.

“I know by the voice of Páraic Duffy in congress, when he showed great passion to put forward a motion to cut a couple of weeks off the season and he couldn’t get it done because of the red tape.

“There’s so many people sitting on committees throughout Ireland that are so far away from the reality of what’s actually going on and the thoughts of the club player. The heart of the association has been taken out and what we’re trying to do is put the heart back in.

“We’re taking club players away at 12-years-of-age into development squads and it’s fine and well putting millions into coaching, but you’re taking them away from their community too early. They’re losing out on playing with their peers.

“Men playing county football the last 15 years, the detriment to their health going forward will only be seen in maybe 15 or 20 years. Hip replacements, knee replacements, health and well-being.

“They’re in such an intense environment that they’re losing out on their social contact. They’re having a situation where they’ve missed out on so much in life and they think ‘where do I go now?’”

Páraic Duffy’s motion to congress earlier this year to have the All-Ireland finals brought forward by two weeks was rejected by counties and represented a blow to the GAA’s plans to bring all fixtures inside the same calendar year.

Asked if a club players’ association would be seeking a more radical solution, Brennan replied: “Absolutely. He was trying to be realistic and taking small steps. I agreed with him.

“But you saw the reaction he got. That’s where, from our perspective, we can help that.”

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