By Niall McCoy
A TOP GAA doctor has called on the Gaelic Players Association to change their name whilst also calling for the formation of a club player equivalent.
Dr Austin O’Kennedy, who oversaw all Donegal county teams for 22 years, feels that the GPA do not represent the majority of GAA players and is calling for action.
“I wouldn’t call it the GPA anymore, that has to be dropped as of now,” said O’Kennedy. “They should be called the Gaelic County Players Association, they only represent 2 percent of players.”
O’Kennedy has called for a players’ charter to be drawn up for club representatives, and has cited this year’s Donegal club championship, when Four Masters had to play six games in 21 days, as an example of why it is urgently needed.
“I’ve been involved with Donegal for more than 20 years and the Four Masters club for a lot longer than that.
“I rang everyone I knew appealing for help under health and safety grounds as there was just too many games in too short of a period.
“We were looking another three days, so that we would have a week rather than three days before our county semi-final.
“As you could imagine we had a lot of players injured, but nobody took any interest.
“We went ahead and played and our player of the year Karl Lacey was carrying an injury, in fact five players were carrying an injury. Of course four of them had to come off, including Karl at half-time.
“The club, and myself as a doctor – we were incensed by it really. There was no recognition of the players’ health and safety.
“As far as I’m concerned there is a two-tier system in the GAA. When Karl Lacey wears the Donegal shirt he is allowed dignity and the opportunity to prepare in an environment when the body and mind has the rest needed. As soon as he puts on the Four Masters jersey that’s all out the window.
“He can be flogged to the point of breakdown, which happened as he suffered from chronic over-usage. I’m extremely worried about what’s happening really.”
Rather than complain from the sidelines, O’Kennedy is attempting to mobilise the troops in Donegal and is urging club players to come together to form a body.
“I’m calling for a club players association,” he said. “There’s been an enormous amount of interest in it.
“You can’t just pay lip service anymore, and you need a situation where club players are getting a say in what is happening to them.
“There’s no interest in the club player anymore, it’s all about the county player.”
The Offaly native is hopeful that other counties will be willing to get involved.
“First of all you have to get like-minded players to agree with what I am saying.
“I think club players are going to have to form it within their own counties. I’m in the process of trying to form it in Donegal.
“You would have a couple of players from each club, arrange to meet and my feeling is we had to organise each other.
“After you get the support, you could look at other things like education, like workshops and a code of conduct and practises and that kind of thing.
“There’s a lot of interest here, and there’s interest in Sligo and other parts.
“I’d appeal to anyone who would have a similar viewpoint, or any club players like that, to get in contact with me. We need to do something.”
More in this week’s Gaelic Life, including comment from the GPA.