GAA players are “ripe for the picking” for professional teams says Monaghan manager Vinny Corey

Loss of players to NFL and AFL will continue as long as GAA remains amateur says Farney boss

Rory Beggan has been a leader in the art of goalkeeping Picture: Seamus Loughran.
Rory Beggan has spent this year showcasing his superb kicking skills for NFL clubs. Picture: Seamus Loughran.

GAA players are now “ripe for the picking” for professional sports outlets, says Monaghan manager Vinny Corey who could lose Rory Beggan to America’s NFL hot on the heels of Kyle Gallagher’s move to Australia’s AFL.

Beggan could make a dramatic return to county colours for Sunday’s Ulster Championship opener against Cavan but he has spent most of this year in the USA showcasing his superb kicking skills for NFL scouts and it will be a surprise if the Scotstown clubman doesn’t soon follow in the footsteps of Down’s Charlie Smyth who landed a three-year deal with the New Orleans Saints.

Emyvale clubman Gallagher was ever-present in Monaghan’s run to the All-Ireland semi-finals last year but the full-forward was lured Down Under earlier this year with a two-year contract from Aussie Rules club Adelaide Crows.

“It’s not something Monaghan has ever had to contend with,” said Corey.

“We never had someone go to the AFL, we never had someone go to the NFL, we went through a long period when everyone was back every year. You go back to 10 years ago and all the boys were back every year so it is different for Monaghan to contend with.

“But they are not the first players to go to the AFL or NFL and they won’t be the last. With regards to how well trained GAA players are, they are probably ripe for the picking for these professional clubs.

Conor Leonard with the ball alongside Karl Gallagher, two of Monaghan's debutants, with Fermanagh's Danny Leonard nearby.
Karl Gallagher joined the Adelaide Crows on a two-year deal

“If you are offering a fella, who is training almost at a professional level and is playing an amateur sport, (a chance) to play professional sport and he is going to get paid for it, it is going to be very tempting for boys.”

Can the GAA do anything to prevent professional clubs from cherry-picking their way through the best talent? Corey admits that he doesn’t see how they can.

“It’s not as if we own the players or the players are contracted to us, so it’s very much an individual choice for players now,” he said.

“We have no say over amateur players’ lives, they have their jobs and they do this supposedly as a part-time sport for themselves. So no, I don’t think we can make any demands of professional teams as it stands so long as we are amateur.”

Corey’s Monaghan host Cavan in the Ulster Championship preliminary round on Sunday and to get to an Ulster final the winners will have to get past Tyrone and then whoever comes out of the Derry-Donegal quarter-final.

It is an arduous path compared to the relative stroll Kerry will have in Munster – a semi-final against Cork or Limerick and then, assuming they win, a final against Clare, Tipperary or Waterford.

With that sort of imbalance going into the Sam Maguire competition, is the current system sustainable?

“It’s hard to know,” said Corey.

“We’ll have to give it time and see. We are starting in the preliminary round but there is no guarantee we get to play four games, we could be out after the preliminary round and then we’ve an eight-week lay-off for the All-Ireland Championships - so who knows?

“I think traditionally it’s always been accepted if you are starting out in a province like Ulster you are going to have a longer route than teams from a different province.

“It was always tough, the fact now that the year is condensed and you have all those games to play in a shorter space of time it makes it more difficult no doubt.”