GAA Football

Common sense did not prevail for inter-county training return: GPA chief Paul Flynn

GPA Chief Executive Paul Flynn has lamented the GAA's stance over the resumption of inter-county training

GAELIC Players Association [GPA] chief Paul Flynn has reiterated his stance that county players should not have to wait until September 14 to return to inter-county training - and accepts the players' body's level of funding from the GAA may be impacted in the short term due to the Association’s revenue streams being disabled by Covid19.

Launching their annual report via zoom yesterday morning, GPA secretary and Mayo footballer Tom Parsons bemoaned the way in which the GPA’s roadmap statement was presented by sections of the media, while chairman Seamus Hickey – also on the zoom call – weighed into the debate.

With the GAA threatening sanctions if any county team resumes training before the September 14 start date, Flynn was mystified at the non-negotiable position the Association adopted, albeit belatedly.

Currently, inter-county players aren’t insured by the GAA’s Injury Benefit Scheme until mid-September.

Speaking to reporters, Flynn said: “We supported the roadmap. We were involved in the development of it, albeit not the dates that were decided before the Covid committee was set up.

“Did we agree to every element of it? No. But, in my eyes, this was a journey of consensus given that we had to fit a full season into a half a year. We can’t do it in a full year and we’re asked to do it in a half a year, so it took a bit of consensus, a bit of compromise.

“I still believe the players should be entitled to return to county activity once they complete their club activities,” said the former Dublin footballer.

“Some will complete their club activity within the next fortnight. All the club championships have been defined, dates, the whole lot. There is no disadvantage to any clubs if players are able to return because they’ll potentially be sitting idle.

“As much as these players are club players, they are county players too. They need to prepare accordingly for the inter-county scene – it’s an extra 10 minutes, there’s a higher intensity, you need to be conditioned to be ready for that and I think that’s important from an injury prevention perspective…"

Flynn continued: “I accept the press release wasn’t picked up in a positive light but ultimately we represent the players and their welfare. We’re not into the game of sanctions.”

Parsons went further and felt the GPA were being short-changed by sections of the media for not promoting the countless “good news stories” that many of its members are engaged in.

“When I read the press release, to me, it said inter-county games resume on the 14th of September and now is the period for our clubs,” Parsons said.

“That’s what I read and the second piece was we need to protect the welfare of our players and if there is – and this is a risk-assessment piece as well – if there is one county permits inter-county training prior to the 14th of September, for whatever reason, because club activities end, and if that happened and one player picks up a significant injury and we haven’t done due diligence to ensure that insurance was covered for something that was a risk, then that’s [us] not doing our job in respect to player welfare.

“I would absolutely love some more reporting of some of the amazing positive stuff that we’ve talked about in terms of the programmes delivered. I was even thinking there was very little out there of the Give Back activities that county players did this year.

“We had county players sleeping out this year [to combat global homelessness] … how influential inter-county players had been in using their social media presence in helping the HSE in government adhering to Covid guidelines. This is stuff I’m really, really proud of, and these are the good-news stories that should be getting out. It’s just disappointing that a third bullet point of a statement caught headlines.”

Meanwhile, the GPA is confident it will be able to broker a “long-term” funding deal with the GAA despite the pandemic.

The GPA negotiated a €6.9m three-year deal with the Association in 2016 and is up for renewal.

“Firstly, I’d say we’re no different to any other unit within the GAA. Our revenues are linked to the GAA’s – if theirs go down, ours potentially go down too.

“In regards to negotiations, it’s got to be a long-term deal, it’s a partnership model and this is what we’re experiencing right now, no different to any other sports organisation it’s hopefully going to be a short-term impact.

"The GAA has been around for many years and it’s going to be around for many years to come and equally so are the players. Yes, we will look at it from a short-term perspective with the GAA but with regards to a negotiated agreement we’ll be looking at it from a long-term perspective also.”

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