Young Scientists ask: ‘Should GAA go professional?’

Students’ survey also finds that only 28% think counties should buy and sell players

Maire O’Leary, Kelly Walsh and Shannen Murphy from Coláiste Iósaef in Limerick with their project on “Should the GAA go professional?” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Maire O’Leary, Kelly Walsh and Shannen Murphy from Coláiste Iósaef in Limerick with their project on “Should the GAA go professional?” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 
GAAYoung Scientist and Technology Exhibition

and the results are mildly surprising.

“Should the GAA go professional?” is the project title of schoolgirls Maire O’Leary, Kelly Walsh and Shannen Murphy from Coláiste Iósaef in Limerick. All three are themselves avid Gaelic footballers, and while recognising its largely amateur ideals and traditions, they believe the time has come for the GAA to at least consider the possibilities of professionalism, particularly when it comes to attracting more players.

“Part of the reasoning is that most players are already training at a professional level,” says Murphy. “In terms of time commitment and fitness and diet they are effectively being professional. Also the amount of time that managers are putting in. The only issue with the GAA in terms of professionalism appears to be how it would be funded.”

Majority

There were some added findings of note: of those players surveyed, 70 per cent admitted to receiving expenses in excess of €100, while 81 per cent of the overall survey thought that more people would play Gaelic games if the association went professional. However, only 28 per cent thought that counties should be allowed buy players from other counties if indeed the game went professional. The biggest stumbling block would be developing a sustainable funding model, but their conclusion was nonetheless clear: “The GAA should consider the possibility of the sport becoming professional.”

O’Leary, Walsh and Murphy are among the many female-based exhibitors throughout the RDS. Of the 550 qualified projects (chosen from 2,048 entries) 62 per cent were provided by schoolgirls. However, they are not the only ones looking at the sport.

Three schoolboys – also from Coláiste Iósaef – have also taken up a GAA subject: Tim McSweeney, Liam English, and Andrew Finn are presenting a project entitled “The effects of the black card on Gaelic football”, and again the result are mildly surprising.

It is just less than three years since the 2013 GAA Congress in Derry passed the motion to introduce the black card in football, primarily as a way of deterring cynical fouling in the game. It was passed by a then surprising majority of 82 per cent, and came into force from the start of January 2014.

Appeal

A full two-thirds of those surveyed believed the black card has also taken the physicality out of the game.

However, their research also provided some statistics to suggest the opposite, at least when it comes to improved levels of scoring since the black card came into force. Firstly, the number of black cards displayed during the 2015 league and senior football championship totalled 163, an increase of 12 per cent on the 2014 figure.

Scoring

Among those quoted in their project is two-time Kerry All-Ireland winner Stephen Stack, who in 2014 also guided his club Austin Stack’s to a Munster title. Asked if he thought the black card took the physicality out of the game Stack said: “No, I wouldn’t say that now, I do think it’s in favour of the forwards though. The real problem with the GAA at the moment is that there really isn’t a defined tackle.”

And if not, then why not? Perhaps there’s a project for the 2017 Young Scientist Exhibition.

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