Funding cut likely to hit player grants
The five per cent cut in funding to the Sports Council anticipated in next Wednesday’s budget is certain to see intercounty player grants also reduced.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing,” said Cillian O’Connor, Mayo’s breakthrough forward in 2012. “A lot of the guys would be upset about that. It’s difficult when people are putting in so much time and effort away from their jobs and trying to balance, for myself, college and football, your personal life and social life. It is extremely difficult.”
When the deal between the Gaelic Players Association, the GAA and the government was finally agreed back in 2007 the footballers and hurlers who featured in the All-Ireland finals received an annual payment of €2,500 with the sliding scale halting at €500.
After five years of the scheme’s constant erosion, the All-Ireland finalists are only due €750, with the lowest end of the scale at €350.
“Hopefully they won’t be cut but it is looking that way, which is very disappointing if they are,” O’Connor continued. “It is pretty important when you are trying to run things. For students especially, it is a huge help. Hopefully it will keep coming but if it is cut there will be a lot of disappointed, maybe even upset, GAA players around the country.
“It is something that you do voluntarily. You are not being paid, it is an amateur sport and that but I suppose it shows respect as well when you are paid but when it’s cut it’s a blow. It’s disappointing.”
Representatives of the GPA, including chief executive Dessie Farrell, are due to meet with Minister for Sport Michael Ring after next week’s budget announcement.
Yesterday the GPA maintained they are resisting attempts by the Government to cut the amount paid out, via the Sports Council, to their members. The battle now for the players body is to ensure the next figure announced can at the very least be secured in the medium term.
“It’s a pity sport is being targeted,” said GAA president Liam O’Neill. “It was off the agenda for a number of years and I don’t welcome it back on the agenda.”
O’Neill confirmed GAA funds will not be made available to make up any drop in player grants. It was put to O’Neill that governments in Ireland have never made sport a priority when it comes to funding.
“No, they haven’t because we have a different model here. In Europe, the local authority provides sporting facilities for organisations as a matter of course. They don’t have to go and fundraise like we do, buy our pitches and build our stadiums. Municipal authorities do that. It’s different here.”
Meanwhile, O’Connor expects to return from a dislocated shoulder injury by the end of January.“I dislocated it about a week after the All-Ireland in a club game (for Ballintubber against Westport). I’m hoping to get back training full contact by the middle of January. I’m just resting up at the moment and doing the rehab.
I’m doing as much training as I can but I have to be careful with it. I knew straight away when the doctor came on and said it was dislocated, I gave up any hope of playing for the rest of the year after that.
“I suppose it could be worse, it could be the middle of the summer. So I’m not missing as much football as I could have.”
He paid tribute to recently retired team-mate Ronan McGarrity, while also looking forward to the arrival of Kerry’s Donie Buckley, who replaces Cian O’Neill as Mayo coach.
“It was disappointing to lose Cian so soon after the All-Ireland. He was great with us and brought us on a huge amount but it was brilliant to get a coach in like Donie straight away.
“I never worked with him personally so wouldn’t know him too well but from chatting to guys who have worked with him before in other counties and colleges they have only good things to say about him. It is an exciting time, I’m looking forward to working with him. Ronan had a couple of injuries. He’s been one of our best players over the last couple of years. It is sad to see him go but he owes Mayo football nothing.”