Parsons wants players to benefit from his experience

New GPA chief executive explains how players’ union helped his career

Olivia Daly from Cliona’s Foundation, centre, was at Croke Park in Dublin today, with, from left, Cliona’s Foundation family member Susan Ahern Daly, GPA chief executive officer Tom Parsons and Cliona’s Foundation chief executive officer Brendan Ring to help announce that the GPA and Cliona’s Foundation have teamed up. Photograph: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Olivia Daly from Cliona’s Foundation, centre, was at Croke Park in Dublin today, with, from left, Cliona’s Foundation family member Susan Ahern Daly, GPA chief executive officer Tom Parsons and Cliona’s Foundation chief executive officer Brendan Ring to help announce that the GPA and Cliona’s Foundation have teamed up. Photograph: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

 

New Gaelic Players Association chief Tom Parsons admits the union helped pick him off the floor when he was struggling as a young Mayo player. The former midfield star, who retired from inter-county duty in January, was announced as the GPA’s new chief executive in May.

His first official act was to confirm that the GPA and Cliona’s Foundation have teamed up as part of an official charity agreement. It’s hoped to raise €100,000 through the partnership to support vulnerable families with a seriously sick child.

Parsons said that between the partnership and the recent decision to amalgamate with the WGPA, it’s been a productive period. And the Charlestown man revealed exactly why he agreed to step into the CEO role vacated by ex-Dublin footballer Paul Flynn.

“When I really needed the association was probably when I was 22,” said Parsons. “I had experienced three or four years playing with Mayo, I think I recall playing 36 months in a row, balancing inter-county senior football, I was captain of the U-21s, I was playing with the International Rules, I was playing Sigerson and then I picked up a chronic groin injury.

“My performances dipped and I was deselected from the Mayo team at 22. I went from having five or six teams within the Gaelic family down to being associated with my club who were relegated from being county champions down to intermediate.

“So my whole self-identity and self-esteem was really on the floor. My self-esteem and self-identity was wrapped up in being an inter-county footballer and that’s when the GPA stepped in. I wasn’t a high profile player, I wasn’t even involved in Mayo but they (the GPA) stepped in and helped develop me as a person, to find my own career.

“That’s why I’m really passionate about their work because when I put my hand up this year to retire, I was able to retire on my terms in terms of my life is rich, I was working with a Fortune 500 company, I’m a very qualified professional, I have a family, an 18-month old baby boy. I have opportunities and balance in my life.

“I put my hand up to be in this position now because I want other players to experience that.”

Parsons bounced back from a career threatening knee injury in 2018 to take his place on the bench for last December’s All-Ireland final against Dublin.

“I’ve seen it first-hand how the game can consume your mind and how your whole self-identity is around being this inter-county player,” said Parsons. “Male or female players, they feel it. In one way it’s a huge bonus to play inter-county football and there’s huge highs and there’s huge opportunity but in another way the fundamentals of thriving in life are challenged because you don’t have the time to invest in other things outside of sport.”

Inter-county players across the 32 counties will support Cliona’s Foundation’s life changing work over a 12-month period. The GPA revealed a new Official Charity Partnership logo in support of the agreement. The logo recognises the merger with the WGPA which took place over winter.

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