GAA Football

What goes into county season must be curtailed: Tom Ryan

30 January 2019; Ard Stiúrthóir of the GAA Tom Ryan at the launch of the Publication of the Director General’s Annual Report at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Cahair O'Kane at Croke Park

A NEED to curtail the length of the inter-county season is “one conclusion” that could be drawn from last year’s ESRI report on the demands placed on players, but Tom Ryan believes the situation can also be helped by curtailing “what goes into the inter-county season”.

The major report into the effects of playing inter-county Gaelic Games, which was released in September, revealed that players’ mental well-being is not as healthy as for the general population in Ireland, and says the issue of the level of commitment required by players “needs to be addressed.”

The ESRI study, conducted in conjunction with the GAA and GPA, found that players were concerned by the level of demands being placed upon them and called for solving the issue to be considered “from the viewpoint of safeguarding not just these players’ welfare, but the welfare future generations of players as well.”

GAA director-general Ryan promised that the report would not become an empty document but when challenged on whether the obvious solution to the problem was to shorten the inter-county season, he replied: “That’s one conclusion that you could come to from looking at it.

“You can also curtail what goes into the inter-county season when it’s in full swing as well. I refer to the GPA in the report and mention the partnership with them. They’re going to have a huge input into this as well.

“It was very cautionary when you read what that report is telling us about the demands being put on young players. No way is that going to become an idle document.

“It’s going to be the basis of significant outputs from the process we’re putting in place with the GPA to identify specific things that we can do to address that.

“Maybe there’ll be some of the things that were mentioned (curbing cost of county teams) but in general whether it be resources or time or travel, there’s an awful lot of pressure on inter-county players and it’s in our interests to look after them better as well as in their interests and the game’s as a whole.”

But the idea of counties self-policing took a blow last year when a rule was introduced to bring a punishment to county teams engaging in training camps outside permitted windows.

Laois, Armagh and Waterford were all sanctioned at the cost of a home 2019 National League game, with Ryan admitting “there is every chance they were not the only offenders”, but that they were punished because they were the only ones “brave enough to concede they had strayed”.

Asked whether that showed that the idea of counties self-policing their training regimes was a pipe dream, the new director-general said: “They mightn’t be controllable by Croke Park but there’s more to the GAA than Croke Park and what it takes is a collective will on the part of everybody who has an input into the thing.

“That episode was disappointing from that point of view but it did illustrate the fact that a rules-based approach is not always the best way.

“For some reason we all decided to do something and then, not all of us did it. If we’re going to fix the things that you’re talking about in the ESRI report it won’t be through the rule book but through all of us deciding what we’re going to do and then doing it.”

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