'The GAA now own their ass', claims GPA founder

GPA founder Donal O’Neill believes Dermot Earley’s departure as chief executive after less than 12 months indicates how unattractive the organisation has become as the GAA now “own their ass”, writes John Fogarty.

O’Neill maintains the agreement between the GAA and GPA signed two years ago was a better one for the GAA than the official inter-county players’ body. The Armagh native likens the role of CEO now to that of a caretaker.

“Pretty simply, it’s a bit like Brexit,” he said. “The deal is done, there is no going back and you just have to get on with it. It’s probably not a very exciting place to be right now, frankly.

Donal O’Neill

"Dessie Farrell was there for a long, long time and in many ways the work has been done and it is what it is. I’m not sure it’s any more complex than that.

“Dermot Earley is a fantastic guy and I imagine is someone who relishes a challenge but I’m not sure there is any challenge left at this point.

"The commercial aspects of the deal that was done are solid but I’m not au fait with what’s happened strategically in terms of the relationship of the organisations.

“To put it bluntly, the GAA now just own their ass, that’s just how it is and nothing much can be done about that.”

O’Neill would like to have seen the GPA take a more prominent role in the testimonial debate before Christmas when Colm Cooper benefitted from an event.

Cooper and the GPA would have a slightly chequered past as Cooper signed up with Lucozade Sport and O’Neill tied the players body into a long-term deal with Club Energise but O’Neill senses the GPA were neutralised by their close relationship with the GAA.

He recalled former Down footballer Conor Deegan’s idea 13 years ago about organising testimonials to fund a pension scheme for inter-county players but felt it was ahead of its time to be accepted.

“It was within the rules of the organisation and it would have allowed people to support a player beyond their lifespan as a player.

“A lot of us were so sick and tired of seeing great players ending up with not a pot to piss into and that hasn’t changed.

"If you were to allow the public to help the player along, I think you would see an incredible response for quite a large number of players. I wouldn’t see a lot wrong with that.

“What Deegan suggested was the money could be quarantined or put into a pension for business purposes only. It wasn’t going into their pocket but just to make sure that in the longer term players had opportunities and the public had a chance to thank them.

"If there’s nothing in the rules against it what are you going to do — try and invent rules? I don’t think that’s fair.”

O’Neill can’t see how the GAA can now ban testimonials after Cooper’s event. “The GAA are famous for closing doors after the horses have bolted.”

This story first appeared in the

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