GPA grants lobby

Eoin Kelly: GPA grants lobby

Eoin Kelly was to the fore last week highlighting the stark financial realities facing many top GAA players in the current climate.

Meeting politicians in Leinster House as part of the GPA’s campaign to have elite player grants retained, the Waterford All Star told how he’d recently lost his job as a sales rep with a local builders providers and was now effectively “a full-time professional hurler”, as it were.

Emigration could yet be an issue, he admitted, stressing that “bills have to be paid and food has to be put on the table.”

Given his profile and huge importance to Waterford, Kelly, you would think, should be okay. His cousin Dan Shanahan is still doing well for himself, getting the keys to a new car as an Opel Ambassador the other week. And good luck to them both. ‘Well wear’ as they say.

Unfortunately there are hundreds of lesser-known county panellists right around the country who don’t get the same exposure, or rewards, for their efforts.

Having finally got a modest annual payment for its members last season, the players’ body is adamant that the funding shouldn’t fall victim to the swinging cuts anticipated in this week’s emergency budget, with Martin Cullen’s Department seen as a mere optional extra in any economic quarters.

TDs and Senators of all hues have been saying all the right things: that GAA players are key contributors to Irish culture and the economy and should receive some benefit in kind. And a couple of grand is a pittance for what they put in, as far as I’d be concerned.

Incoming GAA president Christy Cooney is promising to support their cause as part of the player welfare agenda, but lest anyone be complacent there’s plenty of talent that has left the country for one reason or another over the years and been lost to Gaelic Games for good.

Holding down a job while making a commitment to serious inter-county activity is a big ask at the best of times; especially when employers are demanding more for less.