Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Ulster could say ‘no’ to GPA link-up

Dessie Farrell, among others, has helped get the Gaelic Players Association formally recognised

The GAA’s Central Council at its meeting on Saturday at Croke Park is expected to encounter opposition from several Ulster counties in its bid to have a motion brought before Congress next year that would effectively rubber-stamp the recent agreement entered into between the Gaelic Players Association and the GAA itself.

Already three counties at least — Donegal, Tyrone and Armagh — are understood to be against the proposed alliance with the GPA while in other counties, notably Derry, this has now morphed into a divisive issue.

GAA President Christy Cooney has been anxious that clubs and county boards should have their say in helping to pave the way for the motion to be brought before Congress but, while the proposal to bring the GPA under the GAA umbrella was initially welcomed, it would appear that many grassroots members are now less than happy with what the agreement represents.

A heated debate at the Donegal county board meeting earlier this week and lively exchanges at a Derry meeting in Owenbeg serve to underline the controversy which the proposed merger has generated.

And in Tyrone, where the GPA-GAA marriage is viewed with considerable cynicism, the county’s delegates have been mandated to vote against bringing the motion to Congress.

Former Donegal All Ireland winning manager Brian McEniff who also steered Ulster to 14 inter-provincial championship titles prior to handing over to Joe Kernan last year, is now his county’s Central Council delegate and he has also been instructed by his board to express opposition to the proposal on Saturday.

Donegal club delegates, in common with those from Tyrone and Derry in particular, are concerned at what they see as exorbitant sums being given to the GPA from GAA coffers. The GPA has already received €250,000 this year and with the players’ body expected to be given a further €1.1million next year to fund various projects under its own banner, fears have been expressed that even more could be sought in future years if the deal between the two parties becomes enshrined in the GAA’s Official Guide.

Tyrone chairman Pat Darcy, meanwhile, insists that his county is “unequivocal” in its opposition to the GPA-GAA merger.

“We had a meeting on Tuesday night and our delegates are in no doubt as to just how they should vote on Saturday. This will reflect the opposition there is to the whole concept of the GPA-GAA alliance in our county,” states Darcy.

A Derry spokesman confirms that at the meeting in Owenbeg feelings ran high on occasions. But while several delegates spoke forcefully against the move to bring the GPA under the GAA umbrella, it is believed that Derry’s Central Council delegates may vote in favour of allowing the motion to go before Congress.

Antrim chairman John McSparran believes that Central Council will get its way in the end on Saturday in relation to the motion but stresses that “the real talking” will be done at Congress.

“Let’s be honest, that’s where the real talking is done and the real decisions are made. Central Council can usually manage to get motions as far as the Congress table when it wants to but I would imagine there will be perhaps some heated debate at Newcastle come April,” says McSparran.

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