Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Sign of the times as players face grants cuts

Hard times: Tyrone’s Cathal McCarron has said he understands the anger at possible cuts to player grants

As the Gaelic Players' Association seek a meeting with the Irish Junior Sports Minister Michael Ring over comments he made regarding possible cuts to player grants, Tyrone's GPA representative has stated that he understands the angry reaction from footballers and hurlers on the issue.

“Players dedicate their lives to train for their county all year round,” said Red Hands defender Cathal McCarron.

“A few pounds at the end of the year … I don't know how we could begrudge the few pounds that are going.”

Several high-profile GAA players have taken to Twitter to voice their displeasure at the impasse.

Meath forward Joe Sheridan (pictured) tweeted; ‘It's about the principle and to show appreciation for the work put in and the millions generated for the economy.'

Wexford goalkeeper Anthony Masterson joined the debate on Twitter and added his opinion, ‘Don't know what's more shocking, di matteo getting sacked or the government cutting the intercounty players grants AGAIN.'

McCarron, like many other GAA stars, is currently unemployed.

He says that for young men in his situation, the grant is vital, but seems resigned to whatever outcome is found.

“It's money at the end of the day,” he commented.

“Of course it's important. I'm sure anybody is in the same boat, unemployed or otherwise. Any money is welcome. It's nice to get it and we will be disappointed if we don't get it.”

Speaking earlier in the week at an awards ceremony for volunteers in Irish sport, Minister Ring floated the ideas of grant cuts, warning, “Because of the economic situation we have, we don’t have the funding that we had before.

“But I am still prepared to do a deal with them (the GAA) on that basis. But we don’t have the same funding we had before.”

The Irish government’s expenses scheme began in 2008, and players who were involved right up to the All-Ireland final were able to draw down awards of up to a four-figure sums.

However, they have been the subject of many retrospective cuts since, with the initial annual budget going from €3.5m (approx £2.8m) in 2008, to just over €1m (approx £807,000) last year.

There is a distinct possibility that it may drop below €1m in 2013, but it could also be scrapped. Doing away with the scheme however, was not something that Ring said he wished to see happen.

“I’m anxious for it to continue,” he said.

“I’m also anxious that if we do a deal, we do it for three years. But it’s not simple now. It’s very serious economic times,” he added.

With the global recession having already decimated local clubs in terms of player emigration, the GPA have recently attempted to safeguard their members by requesting that county boards sign up to a player's charter by the end of January.

This arose following complications in paying player expenses through the National League, and GPA sources were unhappy with the lack of communication coming from some county boards.

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