Dessie Farrell bows out as GPA chief, leaving parting gift

Almost €7 million in government funding has been secured for the next three years

He was, by his own admission, the "chief bottle washer" in the early years of the Gaelic Players Association so the gravity of Dessie Farrell's parting gift to the organisation wasn't lost on him.

The GPA chief executive will step down tomorrow after 14 years in the role – 16 since he first became chairman of the players group – and bowed out on a high, confirming at Croke Park that almost €7 million in government funding has been secured for the player grants scheme.

Broken down, this equates to €1.6 million for 2017, €2.3 million for 2018 and €3 million for 2019 with each of those pots to be distributed to senior intercounty players based on their progress in the previous year’s championship.

The 2017 payments will be made in the new year and the grants will range from a minimum of €517 per player to €1,187 for All-Ireland finalists. Compared to the previous pot of €900,000 that was paid out earlier this year, it amounts to a near doubling of the grants.


It is, of course, still well down on the €3.5 million annual pot that was initially put forward for the scheme when first introduced in 2008 though that figure will almost be fully restored in 2019.

Allied to the separate accord between the GPA and the GAA that was announced back in July, securing €6.2 million in annual funding for player services from Croke Park, Farrell's stock could hardly be much higher as he makes for the exit door.

Flanked by a beaming Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Sport Shane Ross at yesterday's announcement, it's certainly a long way from the agitation of the late 1990s when county players like Farrell fought for the most basic of improvements and, for a period, operated out of the back room of his parents' house.

“I think to get to the place we’ve got to, in terms of the grants, is a very good outcome for us,” said Farrell. “At government level, there’s so many priorities and there’s such a broad agenda there that you just have to get in and fight your corner as best you can. I think we’ve put our best foot forward in that regard and have arrived at a place which is very positive. It’s not where it was back then, at the beginning, but it’s heading in the right direction.”

Women’s football and camogie

Women’s football and camogie players will benefit separately from additional government funding presented to Sport Ireland.

Farrell’s successor will be confirmed early in the new year and the former All-Ireland-winning Dublin footballer said it’s likely to be another former player that steps into his shoes.

“I think that would most likely be a pre-requisite at this point,” he said. “After being in the role for the last 14 years, you’d have a fair handle on what’s involved and possibly the type of individual who would fit the bill there. I’ve made my views known in terms of the workload and the skills needed to a sub group of our board who have been charged with implementing the process and making a recommendation for the appointment to the board.”

Farrell’s next move will be intriguing after nearly 20 years at the coalface of player representation.

“I don’t have a new job lined up,” he said. “A lot of people are surprised at that. I’m probably just going to set something up on my own initially, work on a couple of projects. That will give me the time and flexibility to figure out what career path I want to pursue in the future.”

Jim Gavin, the current back-to-back All-Ireland-winning Dublin manager, served an apprenticeship with underage Dublin teams and Farrell appeared to be following a similar path. He has managed Dublin to All-Ireland minor and under-21 wins since 2012 and it was felt all that was holding him back from moving into the senior management ranks was the GPA role.

“Some people have suggested that that’s the reason that I might have decided to step down,” acknowledged Farrell. “It’s definitely not the reason at all. I’m happy to be involved with the under-21s. And that’s a big enough commitment as it is. It’s definitely unrelated to the decision to step aside.”

So he can’t see himself managing a senior county team in the coming years?

“No I can’t, to be honest,” responded Farrell. “I think the commitment is too great.”

Even if Dublin come calling post-Gavin? "No, I don't think so, I don't think so." GOVERNMENT GRANT AID FOR INTERCOUNTY PLAYERS

(based on performance in the previous season)

INITIAL AGREEMENT 2008: €3.5m Minimum: €1,400 Maximum €2,500 PREVIOUS AGREEMENT 2016: €900,000 Minimum: €290 Maximum: €667 NEW THREE-YEAR AGREEMENT 2017: €1.6m Minimum: €517 Maximum: €1,187 2018: €2.3m Minimum: €743 Maximum: €1,707 2019: €3m Minimum: €970 Maximum: €2,227