Players' group unfazed by GAA snub


The Gaelic Players Association has responded strongly to the GAA's dismissal of the GPA's right to represent its members. Administrator Donal O'Neill has reiterated that the GPA will be concluding a sponsorship deal in the near future and that the players' group has no intention of fading off the scene.

At Monday's announcement by the GAA of a package of measures to benefit players, including the facilitating of endorsement deals and a variety of perks for players, president Joe McDonagh rejected the GPA's claims to represent footballers and hurlers and announced a ban on players appointing their own agents.

O'Neill confirmed that the GPA's first commercial venture remained on track despite the GAA's specific prohibition on such an arrangement. "We are very close to finalising our sponsorship deal which is going to greatly strengthen our position. I guess there's a possibility of conflict but it will be interesting to see what their (the GAA's) attitude will be to existing under-the-table payments.

"Are they going to seek retribution against every manager getting paid and players and teams who have their own deals? I don't think so."

Whereas the schedule of GAA recommendations has found favour with players, the question of whether they are entitled to be represented by what McDonagh referred to as "an unofficial grouping" will be more hotly contested.

"I've been speaking to about 80 per cent of the player representatives," said O'Neill, "and they are firmly of the view that what progress has been made is the direct result of the foundation of the GPA. In relation to endorsements and agents, I haven't seen the documentation from Croke Park so I'm not sure of the lie of the land."

Over the next fortnight the GPA will hold a number of scheduled meetings of its 450 or so members at which the refusal of the GAA to recognise the players' association will be discussed along with the prohibition on their negotiating their own sponsorship agreements. O'Neill confirmed that the GPA hadn't been taken entirely by surprise by Croke Park's hardline attitude.

"We anticipated something like this as a potential development. David Burke, who's a former Waterford player and involved in our administration in Munster, and Fergal Logan, (former Tyrone All-Ireland finalist) who's active in Ulster, are both solicitors so we will be keeping our options open. Then again we could be terribly creative and find a way around this impasse."

Meanwhile for Saturday's match against Dublin in Tuam, Galway make only one change to the side which recorded an impressive win in Tyrone two weeks ago. Midfielder Kevin Walsh has aggravated an injury and is replaced by Shay Walsh - one of a number of Galway players recently returned from brief stays in Australia - who is named on the wing with Joe Bergin moving to the middle to partner Sean O Domhnaill.

Dublin have only one injury concern for the match. Declan Conlon tweaked his hamstring against Donegal in the team's last outing and is doubtful for the weekend. Tom Carr will announce his team tomorrow.

The Munster inter-club Junior Hurling Championship gets under way on Sunday with two first-round fixtures in Bruff. Clare champions Ballyea will play Bandon of Cork, while Patrickswell of Limerick do battle with Lixnaw of Kerry. Awaiting the winners in the semi-finals on April 2nd and 9th are Lismore of Waterford and Galtee Rovers of Tipperary.

Galway (SF v Dublin): M McNamara; T Meehan, G Fahy, R Fahy; E Daly, J Divilly, S de Paor; S O Domhnaill, J Bergin; P Clancy, J Fallon, S Walsh; D Savage, P Joyce, N Finnegan.