Emigration biting hard at GAA
By: Cathal Dervan | Published Thursday, December 16, 2010, 5:00 AM | Updated Sunday, August 4, 2013, 3:56 AM
Colm Cooper will be the captain of Kerry next year, so it’s probably a good idea to sit up and listen when he talks on one of the GAA’s major and very current problems.
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.
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