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Ulster set for a Congress battle

Counties braced for payments showdown

By John Campbell

Four Ulster counties - Armagh, Fermanagh, Derry and Tyrone - have all confirmed that they will be bringing motions to next April's Annual Congress protesting at the player grants scheme.

And this perhaps best reflects the disenchantment felt in the province in relation to the payment of the grants.

In each of the counties it has already been made abundantly clear that the decision by Central Council to approve the payment of the grants amounts to nothing less than the green light for pay for play.

Ironically, some of these counties provide some of the most high-profile members within the Gaelic Players Association such as Enda McNulty, Sean Cavanagh and Paddy Bradley.

Certainly, it would be difficult to persuade Derry chairman Seamus McCloy and his Tyrone counterpart Pat Darcy that this is other than the case as far as they are concerned.

And this week Fermanagh chairman Peter Carty has affirmed that he won't rest until the whole matter of the grants has been brought to the floor of Congress.

The Armagh Convention was held earlier this week and while it would appear that opposition to the grants is not maybe quite as entrenched as in some other counties, nevertheless this did not prove to be a barrier to the passing of a motion suggesting that county players should donate their grant payments to their clubs.

This is certain to raise a few hackles at Congress - if the motion gets that far.

The process of vetting Congress motions in advance - the task is undertaken by a special committee that usually comprises some former presidents - occasionally stirs controversy and this could prove the case prior to the 2008 gathering of county board delegates in Sligo for what is the most important forum in the annual GAA administrative calendar.

All motions relating to the payment of grants to inter-county players are likely to come under the closest scrutiny but should even one make it onto the agenda, a lively debate is certain to ensue.

And it can be safely assumed even at this stage that Ulster voices will ring out loud and clear in the discussions - unless, that is, there is a significant moving of the goal posts in the interim.

Indeed, the grants issue has now apparently infiltrated Ireland's preparations for next year's Olympic Games, it would seem.

Funding from the Republic's government for the various sporting organisations will be announced early in the New Year but it is likely to be down on previous Olympic years due to the recent deal brokered between the Government, the GPA and the GAA.

Ireland's athletics team manager for the Beijing Games, Patsy McGonagle, is concerned at the impact such developments will have on their Olympic plans.

"My understanding is that athletics will only get the same as last year - maybe marginally less - because of the fact that the grants to the GAA players will come out of the same high performance pool," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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