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Comment: GAA should sit up and take notice of CPA's fixture survey

By Declan Bogue

The findings of the latest Club Players' Association (CPA) survey have to be taken seriously due to the fact that, as claimed, they had 3,959 responses to their questions - especially given that over 2,500 said that they were unhappy with the organisation of fixtures and felt it was within their right for the body to 'go a different route' in finding voice for their complaints.

What that 'different route' may be is unclear. At their launch in Ballyboden's GAA grounds in January 2017, the group made it clear that strike action, as such, would not be a road they would go down. Former Wexford All-Ireland-winning hurling manager Liam Griffin, one of their numerous high-profile executives, left us in no doubt that he wouldn't have got involved if that was on the table under any circumstances.

In any case, it is a significant bargaining chip as the CPA seek their first meeting with new GAA President John Horan and the new Director-General, Tom Ryan.

A strike, however, requires serious unity if this is something they feel they can threaten the Association with, and to have a half-baked effort would do more damage to their credibility than anything.

Although you cannot doubt the resolve of those who responded to the survey, it remains to be seen just how engaged the average club player is.

This week, a high-profile Derry club asked their squad in a players' WhatsApp group how many are members of the CPA.

Out of a playing group of 50, only seven confirmed that they are.

In a middle-ranking Tyrone club, the same question was posed. No players confirmed they had registered as a member despite the level of media coverage the group have received and their pledge that they can make life better for players.

Their initial pledge was that top of their agenda was to 'fix the fixtures'. There is evidence emerging now that the process has already started, and from within the Association.

Stephen Barker was a player for Moneymore in Derry who was unhappy with the constant chopping and uncertainty of club fixtures. He was elected to the county committee, spearheaded a review of games and fixed Derry's fixtures programme.

Now, all Derry county players are available for all club league games.

Like Derry, Armagh club players also have a calendar of all their games, where they will be played and against who.

Sorting the fixtures needs to come from the individual counties themselves. If the will is there, it can be done.

If the CPA brought this issue front and centre to the GAA, then their work has not been in vain.

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