Emigration is a buzz word in Irish life once again thanks to the bankers and the politicians who have combined to strangle the Celtic Tiger and bring the country to its knees, and Cooper isn’t the only one talking about it.
There’s not a secretary’s report to a county board convention this month that doesn’t mention the scourge of unemployment and the drain of hurlers and footballers leaving these shores. Longford secretary Peter O’Reilly spoke about it in his report this week.
“Given the economic news of the past few weeks, I fear that we are once again facing mass emigration,” warned O’Reilly.
“Fermanagh, which is of similar size GAA-wise to Longford, stated recently that inter-county transfers averaged 20 per month. This sort of transfer rate would wipe out our inter-county playing strength and is something we need to be conscious of in planning for the future.”
In Kildare, a whopping 58% of all transfer signed in recent months were for players moving to England, Australia or the U.S.
Clare secretary Pat Fitzgerald has outlined in his report that some 200 GAA players have left the county in the last three years. On one day alone at Shannon Airport, some 17 players from three different clubs left for foreign shores.
The Derry chairman John Keenan has described emigration as the “greatest threat” to the GAA and its future.
And the Gaelic Players Association have claimed that 15% of all inter-county players are currently unemployed, with many of them adamant that they may have to move abroad to find work.
Cooper is one of the lucky ones playing inter-county football right now who still has a job, and also has very understanding employers.
But he knows that not everyone is in the same boat judging by comments he made in a very interesting and very good interview with the Sunday Independent this past weekend.
The new Kerry skipper should have been playing with his club Dr. Crokes against Cork’s Nemo Rangers in the Munster club final on Sunday which was originally, I suspect, the backdrop for said interview.
That game, like so many others here as we finally thaw after the big freeze, was postponed, so Cooper found himself talking about the pressing issues of the day as far as his sport is concerned.
“We have a few lads at our club not working, and the reality is if we weren’t as successful as we are, competing in county finals and playing Munster club, I’ve no doubt a lot of the lads would be in Australia or America,” Cooper said.
“If someone asked me to go to talk to them, I couldn’t give them an argument to stay around. Obviously I want them here and the team wants its best players around, but it doesn’t pay the mortgage or put bread on the table.
“There is every chance these lads could go once this season is over, and I can’t fight with them.
“I think the GAA could be doing more for players. I know it’s not feasible to look after every club player, but the GAA is big business now, there is revenue coming in, maybe not as much as before but there is still money there and I think they could still be doing more.
“They are paying top guys up there. Surely they can toss around ideas and could come up with something to benefit the guys who are struggling.”
The GAA have long since dismissed all calls to turn professional, but it is clear right now that they are going to have to do something to help their suffering players. The government won’t do anything so they’re going to have to.
Talking to Colm Cooper would clearly be a good place to start.
GOLF: Another good week for Ulster’s Graeme McDowell. On Sunday, he picked up a cool $235,000 alongside teammate Darren Clarke for their second place finish at the Shark Shootout in Florida, and on Monday he was named European Golfer of the Year by the British Golf Writers. That little check on Sunday, by the way, brings McDowell’s earnings for the year to a whopping $5.5 million. And the U.S. Open champion can expect to pick up another $3 million a year when he signs a new club deal after Christmas. Not bad for hitting a small ball around a field, is it?
HURLING: The Wexford County Board should know better. At a time when the country is struggling to shift the snow and ice that have plagued us for a fortnight now, they have nothing better to do with their time than investigate reports that Faythe Harriers may have rented out their all-weather facilities to a soccer team. Wexford soccer personality Mick Wallace has described the GAA’s actions as “unbelievable.” He’s not wrong.
SOCCER: If you have access to YouTube look for the goal by young Irish winger Jonathon Hayes that helped Inverness Caledonian Thistle to a 1-1 draw with Rangers on Saturday. The strike from Hayes was something special -- a contender for Goal of the Season even. Well worth a look, especially if you’re a Celtic or Irish fan or both.
HERO OF THE WEEK
IT’S rare that any Irish athlete wins a gold medal these days, so congratulations to the under-23 stars who won the team prize at the European Cross Country Championships in Portugal on Sunday. Included in the winning team was one John Coghlan and yes, he is the son of the Chairman of the Boards Eamonn.
IDIOT OF THE WEEK
THE 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar, a country where homosexuality is banned, so this week that buffoon Sepp Blatter suggested that gay football fans shouldn’t engage in sexual activity if they go to the tournament. Naturally, the FIFA president’s remarks have been treated with disdain across the world, but nothing should surprise us with this man.