Home of the GAA, Croke Park during the 2004 All-Ireland Final (Photo Credit: John H. Nolan)

A Turning Point For Club Players?

The GAA is a grassroots organisation; it only survives on the running of its clubs. So why are clubs, more often than not, thrown into the shadows? On Monday the 9th of January 2017, the Club Players Association, also known as the CPA, was launched in Ballyboden St.Endas GAA Club. According to its website, the CPA “is being established to become the club person’s voice in the GAA”. At the launch of the players association, all the aims, objectives, and executive members were unveiled.

With a range of counties being represented on the executive of the CPA, there will surely be voices heard from the North, South, East and West of the island. The following are some this year’s executive members of the CPA. Michael Briody from St. Brigids in Co. Meath is sitting as chairman, with the secretary being Declan Brennan from Clonitbret in Monaghan and the treasurer is Anthony Moyles from St. Pauls GFC/ Dunshaughlin GFC, Co. Meath. Other members of the executive include Aaron Kernan as Grassroots Operator from Crossmaglen Rangers Co. Armagh and Kevin Nolan from Kilmacud Crokes in Dublin as Players Welfare and Personal Development Coordinator.

The CPA have made it clear of what they consist of, but what exactly are they about? According to their website ‘A core objective of the Club Players Association is to establish a regular playing season for clubs and curbing the pervasive influence of the county scene on the fixtures calendar of club players the length and breadth of Ireland’. This objective was also made clear in their launch whereby the CPA secretary, Declan Brennan stated that the CPA wanted to pull the All Ireland back and condense the provincial championships. This is not the first time the argument has been raised in the GAA community about the changing of fixtures. Always a hot topic, but one which has not been tackled by the head decision makers in Croke Park, maybe the CPA will bring a long-awaited change to the inter county structure.

But don’t be fooled that the CPA is just concerned with the issue of fixtures, stated in the FAQ section of their website they say “While sorting out the fixtures mess is the primary objective, the CPA will be led by feedback from its members about what other areas require support e.g. insurance, facilities etc.” The fact that this organisation is clear to be concerned with many club issues they may not disappear off the radar if they succeed in their objective of a better fixture schedule. This would certainly play along the lines of the comments made by former player and now pundit Colm O’Rouke, who described the move by the CPA as “putting the cart before the horse” and “trying to put the clubs first”. Which indeed is necessary as the clubs are the functioning organs in the body of the GAA, and without proper treatment and care they organisation itself would face many more challenges.

To many people in the GAA community this has been welcomed as a step in the right direction. One man who would agree is Thomas Seale, a club and county veteran of the game who has played for Roscommon Hurling for over a decade now. He is an advocate for the importance of clubs saying “pulling on my county jersey, is only secondary to pulling on the club jersey in terms of pride, and importance”. Also, giving an anecdote about how important his club has always been to him since he was a child, saying “it has always been instilled in to me from a very young age, that you are representing something that is very very important”. Continuing saying that his parents are both originally from the hurling stronghold of Galway and moved to Roscommon to raise their family, he says that “[his] dad always instilled a huge pride in playing for Roscommon Hurlers, so the whole thing is hugely passionate, and hugely proud to play for both club and county.” When asked about a players union he simply added “I’d love to see a players union because I feel it would make a real difference for the future of the organisation”.

It will be interesting, nonetheless, to see what impact, if any, the CPA has on the GAA. For anybody within the GAA they are hitting all the right boxes appearing very motivated, inclusive and striving for change. For any GAA player interested in registering with the CPA or to find out more information you can do so over on their website gaaclubplayers.com. Alternatively, you can check out their Facebook page Club Players Association for all the recent updates.

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