Belfast Telegraph

Tyrone stars must earn success

Work pays off: Slaughtneil captain Aoife Cassidy celebrates All-Ireland camogie success after the victory over Sarsfields at Croke Park on Sunday
Work pays off: Slaughtneil captain Aoife Cassidy celebrates All-Ireland camogie success after the victory over Sarsfields at Croke Park on Sunday

By Decan Bogue

We are now 15 years on from the Cork strike, when the hurlers and footballers of the Rebel County downed tools in protest against a regime that they felt - and were subsequently proved correct - were denying them the chance to reach their full potential.

Over the past week, those restrictions came to mind after the revelations and subsequent comments from the Tyrone camp about being asked to make a one-off payment of £15 for foam rollers and resistance bands.

It became a player welfare issue - the sort of thing for the Gaelic Players Association.

Let it be said, the formation of the GPA in 1999 became necessary due to the war stories emerging from inter-county squads.

Cork was particularly fertile ground. Their grievances were rich in imagery.

Such as the time Niall McCarthy was injured in a hurling league game away to Derry and spent the entire return journey on the bus, blood seeping into a towel pressed against the gash, with no medical support with the team.

Or when they were forced to change in a gymnasium on matchday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. With no access to toilets, some players were forced to urinate on towels on a hot day when hydration needs were paramount.

Given such a drastic state of affairs, there was a bit of 'they don't know they are born' sentiment towards the Tyrone complaints.

Team captain Sean Cavanagh and others have weighed in since, stating they are happy with the levels of support they receive, and sponsors have been suitably name-checked and carried in the media.

Still, somebody from within the circle thought strongly enough about it to email a radio station under the cover of anonymity. And the story was verified by a prominent player.

Maybe those people responsible in the Tyrone bubble are not alone. Perhaps there is an entitlement complex within GAA squads. And given the humble-bragging of their peers, it's not difficult to understand why young, competitive men would feel this way.

You can barely scroll down through your Twitter feed nowadays without seeing a top county footballer - and not all from Dublin either - accepting the keys of a gleaming new car from a man in an ill-fitting suit. Or thanking a tailor for kitting them out in return for a grateful tweet or two.

The Tyrone players are looked after in a manner befitting top-end professional athletes. They train at a £7million facility that is soon to commence work on a bespoke strength and conditioning unit.

Most of them have sponsorship deals with boot companies, even though they can avail of a standard £325 voucher for three pairs of boots when named on a National League panel.

They see the other amounts being spent by county boards and assume that it is all exclusively going on the pursuit of Sam Maguire.

Look at the counties that seem to be splashing the cash. Mayo spent £1,417,122. The same Mayo required Croke Park to bail them out in February 2015 by absorbing the entire debt for the redevelopment of MacHale Park in Castlebar.

Croke Park saved Mayo something in the region of £4 million, but in order to do that, they had to dip into the collective GAA purse, thereby taking money out of the pockets of Tyrone and other county boards.

Roscommon are spending huge figures also. Well over twice Tyrone's spend. But over 10 years ago, their finances were in such a twist that any cheques they wrote had to be signed by then provincial secretary John Prenty as their debts topped over £1million before an individual came to their rescue.

In the light of such inability to keep fiscal affairs in check, Tyrone's financial husbandry is something to be admired, not scorned, though this latest row was one that could easily have been prevented.

Foam rollers? This writer can recall former Tyrone player Ryan McMenamin visiting his house for an interview. In the back seat of his car was a foot-long length of six-inch Wavin pipe that he cut with a handsaw during the building of his house.

That was his foam roller.

And then you listen to Slaughtneil camogie captain Aoife Cassidy and her pursuit of success that involves leaving work as a podiatrist in Belfast and driving over an hour to her family home in Slaughtneil before collecting the team bibs, cones and water bottles for training.

"The life of a camogie team is shortlived as the age profile is very young, players move on, get married, have children, whatever," she said.

"But we've stuck together, we've been selfish in the past three years…"

Selfish? Not one bit.

Belfast Telegraph


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