The Gaelic Players Association (GPA) has responded to what they've called the 'negative discourse' surrounding the club and inter-county standoff.
The body which represents inter-county hurlers and footballers has been criticised for its silence this week.
Earlier this week on Off The Ball, Offaly GAA chairman Michael Duignan criticised both the GAA and the GPA over county training sessions happening before September 14.
That's the date put forward under the GAA's Roadmap for returning to play.
However, it's Duignan's belief that county training sessions have been taking place already.
While the GAA imposed the September 14 date, they did not outline any sanctions for those that break it.
"I’m also disillusioned with Croke Park for not coming up with stricter sanctions," Duignan told Joe Molloy.
"And the players themselves, and the GPA in particular, for not standing up for players and saying “we’re not accepting this."
In a statement, the GPA recognise the September 14 cut-off but add, "It would be highly negligent of us, and utterly wrong, as the body charged with looking after inter-county player welfare, not to seek to have any such training covered by the GAA Injury Benefit Scheme, should these sessions be sanctioned by their respective counties."
They say the ability to stop these early training sessions does not lie with them, "It is the role of each county board to ensure that these training sessions are not sanctioned prior to the agreed dates."
The GPA have asked for "common sense" to prevail, and have asked that players be allowed to join up with their county panels once their club has been knocked out of the county championship.
The last week has seen significant progress being made towards the return of our games across the country. It is hugely positive to see pitches open again and teams getting back together.
However, that air of optimism has been eroded somewhat by the ‘club v county’ narrative that has developed. This is very unfortunate, given a few short weeks ago we had the very real possibility that we would not see any action in 2020. That risk very clearly remains when we see what is developing across the world.
Collectively, the GAA community have played a huge role in the tireless work this country has undertaken to fight Covid-19, which remains a very real threat to not just our games but society as a whole. Our focus needs to remain on following the protocols so that we minimise that risk to our communities and ensure we have a programme of games to enjoy at both club and county level.
As there is sustained negative discourse surrounding inter-county players, the GPA want to make the following points:
- 2020 is a year that requires compromise and collaboration to complete what has been a very difficult year for all. Longer term, our strategy to achieve club and county balance requires structural changes that we have been working diligently on with the GAA via the Fixtures Task Force.
- Inter-county players, through the GPA, have been part of the GAA Covid-19 Advisory Committee since its inception. This is the committee that outlined the Return to Play (RTP) protocols and a roadmap back to a programme of training and games.
- As things stand and for complete clarity, the roadmap clearly highlights that there should be no collective inter-county training prior to September 14th. However, it would be highly negligent of us, and utterly wrong, as the body charged with looking after inter-county player welfare, not to seek to have any such training covered by the GAA Injury Benefit Scheme, should these sessions be sanctioned by their respective counties.
- It is the role of each county board to ensure that these training sessions are not sanctioned prior to the agreed dates.
- However, the GPA believes that common sense should prevail, allowing players to return to inter-county training once their involvement in club championship action is complete. We presented this viewpoint to the Covid-19 Advisory Committee and the GAA’s Central Competition’s Control Committee (Friday, June 19th) and it is something that we will continue to work towards.
It should be noted that in the midst of the negative discourse surrounding ‘club v county’, inter-county players are incredibly proud and passionate to represent their communities; as a player it has always been club and county, not club v county.
The health of the inter-county game remains a vital component of the GAA’s success. It is vital in terms of showcasing our games and in providing an arena for the sports’ highest performers. It is also essential in terms of the unifying effect it has on clubs and communities and the sense of pride in place if offers. It is loved by GAA fans up and down the country and further afield and needs to be respected.
Covid-19 still presents a risk to our society, community and games. We must be united in our approach to addressing this challenge.