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We can’t stop Oz sides pinching our starlets, admits GPA chief

By Declan Bogue

Published 29/11/2016

Ronan Sweeney
Ronan Sweeney

A leading Gaelic Players’ Association representative has admitted there is little the body can do to deter Australian Rules clubs coming to Ireland to cherry-pick the brightest young talents.

Ronan Sweeney, the former Kildare footballer, was answering suggestions that the GAA might put together a bursary scheme  as an incentive for young players to stay at home and continue their Gaelic football careers.

On the All-Stars trip to Dubai, Kerry’s Paul Geaney lamented the loss of his own Dingle clubman Mark O’Connor, who signed for Geelong in mid-October.

Geaney suggested an increased college bursary might be the way to keep talent at home, stating: “There’s nearly 10 or 15 college bursaries given out to guys. They’re handy. I got one, they’re between €500-€1,000. They’re handy but they’re not what keeps a guy in college.

“It’s handy pocket money but if you put that money together and gave it to four of the better guys, four of the best guys that possibly would be leaving you, it might give them an incentive to stay. If you gave maybe €5,000 to the top two or three, it might help to keep them around.”

However, Sweeney feels such an award would be difficult to put in place.

“I don’t see how that would work properly,” he remarked. “It is already in place regarding college grants. How could you pick the elite? People might say that the GPA is elitist anyway because it represents inter-county players, but to go and pick the best of the best, I can’t see how that would work.”

On a personal level, Sweeney believes the football relationship between Ireland and Australia to be far from mutually beneficial.

“I don’t know whether something has to be done about it, whether it should just be up to the player or should there be some sort of transfer system put in place,” he said.

“I’m not sure exactly how it would work, but it’s a little bit easy at the moment for the Australians to just come and pick our best players, and you can’t do anything about it.”

The newly-formed Club Players’ Association (CPA), spearheaded by former Monaghan star Declan Brennan, met in  Croke Park on Saturday and is now set for an official launch on January 9 at an undisclosed GAA club.

Membership to the body will be free, with no charge to players or payment to any member for services to the CPA. Chiefs will announce details of the player registration process and player representation at the launch.

Brennan said: “Following the launch, the CPA will represent the Club Players’ perspective and ensure the players have a voice at club, county, provincial and national level. We have encouraged players to get involved in their club committees, emphasising the GAA belongs to all of us equally.

“The aim here is a meaningful programme of competitive games for all club players.

“We appreciate all the feedback provided to us so far, representing the full spectrum of views within the GAA.

“Hopefully the outcome will be a better GAA for all of us; volunteers, players, administrators and supporters.

“The last few weeks have highlighted a series of the issues causing players serious concern.”

Belfast Telegraph

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