Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Adrian Logan: GAA must strike right note with GPA

They say that size doesn't matter but this week we can make an exception as far at the Gaelic Players Associating is concerned.



Some 1,200 players, personalities, fans and many managers packed into the CityWest Hotel in Dublin last night for the latest instalment of the Opal Players Awards.

The numbers alone make it the foremost banquet of its kind in the land.

The GAA's All Stars this season took a step back in numbers with just over 750 for their high -profile bash a fortnight ago.

Interestingly, there were several changes from the 'official' 15 picked by the journalists from the team selected by the GPA members themselves.

Tyrone's Conor Gormley is rightly given a place in the corner of defence.

Darren Fay replaced Derry's top defender Kevin McCloy while Paul Galvin of Kerry made the final 15. As usual like the All Stars there will be complaints about certain players losing out but then what's new?

I would think that with both teams most people would probably agree with about 12 of the selections. That's just the way things go.

But the Opel GPA dinner is now fast becoming one of the showpieces of the GAA social scene.

And with cars presented by the sponsors to the Players of the Year in football and hurling it's unlikely to lose its appeal.

In may ways it mirrors the GPA itself. Like t or not it's getting bigger and more influential and it will have a major say in GAA affairs in years to come.

Soon the GPA will announce the details of the votes over a possible strike because of the failure by the GAA to sort out the grant scheme approved by the Irish government.

The chances are next week's news conference will confirm the vast majority of members balloted will have voted in favour of strike action in the new year.

If that happens the GAA needs to take a very long serious look. There is no point in sticking their heads in the sand and saying let them strike because another 15 can replace them.

That may be the case but how many thousands of fans will stay away from National League games and sit at home to watch the Premiership instead?

I hope there isn't a strike and I hope good sense will prevail and a compromise can be worked out.

But I do believe the players have every right to protest. The GAA authorities have been quick to try and ridicule the GPA saying they don't speak for the grass roots. That's rubbish.

How many county players do you know work with under age teams in your club? Plenty, I would suggest.

Several hard-working GAA committee men have told me if the players are given grants they will walk away as they see it as a form of pay for play.

Let's pause for a second. How many of these committee men are involved with clubs who are paying their managers and coaches under the counter and have been involved in the practice for the past decade or more?

Perhaps some people out there should think before they speak.

And that leads me on to the topic of Oisin McConville who this week launched a stinging attack on three Tyrone players for what he alleged were " verbal attacks" on the field of play.

He had harsh words for Brian Dooher, Ryan McMenemin and Ulster captain Conor Gormley.

The incidents were raised in the Armagh player's book 'The Gambler'.

Maybe it's something controversial that's needed to sell a book but I've always felt that what happens on the field of play should stay there.

We have all been guilty of things we are not proud of through the years but that's the nature of sport.

Get on with it has always been my simple message.

Interesting that Gormley who was singled out by McConville was selected by his fellow players this weekend for the Gaelic players team.

Clearly they see more to Gormley than Oisin.

Housty was one of the best . . .

I WAS heartbroken this week with news of the sudden death of Brian Houston.

'Housty' was the public face of Bass Ireland for many years and my friendship with him goes back over two decades.

I had many dealings with him but the most significant was in relation to the Ulster GAA Writers Association.

Over 20 years ago Kevin Hughes and myself came up with the idea of forming this body and it was left to me to get a sponsor.

Only one man came into my thoughts.

One phone call and less than a minute into the conversation we had a sponsor.

Normally a sponsor writes a cheque and walks away but not Housty. He helped me draft our constitution. He was involved in sorting out our logo and he gave so much of his time in making our annual banquet one of the jewels in the crown of the GAA social calendar.

I will always remember Housty for his smile, his laugh and his positive outlook on life.

He had a gentle way with him. He could solve problems at the drop of a hat without either side losing face. He was a very special person.

In two weeks time the Tennent's Ulster GAA writers will celebrate its 20th year in existence.

Our black tie affair is again an 800 strong sell-out in Bundoran.

Moved to a Saturday night for the first time in its history - another change dreamt up by Housty.

Every fabric of our association and banquet has been touched by him and he has left an indelible mark.

It won't be the same without him but he would want us to carry on and make sure it's yet another night of craic and enjoyment.

We will do that to the best of our ability but there will be a void. A void we can never replace.

My thoughts and prayers this week are with Housty's young son Greg and his family.

He was more than a sponsor. Brian was a dear friend. And one who will be sadly missed.

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