Fittingly, the Gaelic Players’ Association post-AGM press conference took place at the Radisson Blu Hotel next to Dublin Airport, as there are clearly issues the players’ body are keen on down the track and others that they would prefer to stay on the ground.
The seemingly calm pace of the integration process between the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Ladies Gaelic Football Association and the Camogie Association is frustrating and certainly something the GPA would like to see off the tarmac.
The creation of a Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the three Gaelic Games organizations is, they say, something that now needs to be put in place. At Saturday’s general meeting in Portlaoise, the GPA passed a motion calling for the creation of such a position.
“I think this is a gap that needs to be filled and filled urgently,” said Ciarán Barr, GPA’s finance and operations manager.
In particular, the increased awareness and discussion around concussions in sport has highlighted the need for the GAA, LGFA and Camogie Association to create a CMO role with responsibilities across all three bodies, Barr says.
“If you watch many sports around the world. Concussion is probably the easiest to talk about, the most publicized.
“Look at how rugby has changed the nature of its game from 20 years ago to today and what a red card is in rugby is completely different than it was 20 years ago. Because they’re very clearly aware that they need to have a sustainable game where people are uninjured and badly injured, so that’s a great example.
“And where does all this come from? It comes from medical professionals saying it’s the result of that activity, so you have to change the activity to get a different result, whether it’s in the tackle or in contact.
“Another example would be the female athlete, how the female athlete at this elite level adapts and her body performance and how she adapts to nutrition and medicine etc. compared to a male body . Is there a study on this in Gaelic games? Is there an analysis of what happens between elite male players and female players? No.”
Barr would see the CMO proposing rule changes to make games safer and doesn’t think the GAA’s Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee is capable of dealing with the vast portfolio in this area.
“No it’s not. And it’s a committee so they meet and they are volunteers, they meet once a month, once every two months, it’s not enough. Look at the number of players who play Gaelic games, there are around 300,000 or 400,000 members of the association. That’s not enough.”
However, the GPA thinks enough is enough when it comes to pre-season provincial competitions, and they want cups like the McKenna Cup and O’Byrne Cup to be discontinued.
“We have lobbied the Central Board to scrap pre-season competitions,” CEO Tom Parsons said.
The GPA has pushed for a return to collective training for November 24 rather than early December, saying pre-season competitions are scheduled so players need a proper training block before resuming play. ‘stock.
“It’s driven by sports science, for the welfare of the players and for the player to be ready for the inter-county season, they need a minimum of six weeks of progressive loading,” Parsons added. .
And the GPA says penalties should be imposed on individuals and units who circumvent the return to training regulations, which is part of their ongoing discussions with the GAA on contact hours.
“There must be consequences for the management, the board and the players, if it’s a breach of the rule, there must be consequences – whether it’s home advantage, the deduction of points in the league, but there must be consequences for all parties.
“Yes, the GPA will play our part but it cannot be the sole responsibility of the players, and that is a very strong point. The contact hours policy, there will be joint responsibility for sure.
As for the integration, well the plane is staying on the runway very well at the moment. It will eventually take off, but while all the passengers involved seem ready to fly, there is still no one in the cockpit.
“On Saturday, the ground reflection was a frustration in how quickly the plates see a timeline,” Parsons admitted.
“It has been seven months since the motions were passed. Why does it take seven months to appoint a chair of this onboarding process, then speed and timelines are something players are looking to get some visibility on.
“We asked to be part of the integration committee. We asked to present to the integration committee, to which we were told that we could present the point of view of the inter-county actors.