The Gaelic Players Association’s Annual Report for 2014 was launched early this week at the offices of PwC by Minister Michael Ring TD, Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport

The Report outlining the Association’s activity in 2014 and ambitions for the year ahead reflects the rapid increase in engagement by county players with the GPA Development Programme.

The objective of the GPA Programme is to ensure that county players are not committing to their sport at the expense of their personal development off the field of play.

Speaking about the launch of the report Minister Ring said: ‘This Annual Report highlights the difference the GPA is making to the lives of the players who sacrifice so much, as amateur athletes, in pursuit of their sporting goals representing their counties, their clubs and their communities. County players are wonderful role models in Irish society and by engaging with the GPA programmes that role is enhanced – players are aware of the leadership skills and can be a force for positive change in the community. A good example is the impact the GPA has had in terms of mental health and the promotion of well-being in this country.’

Dessie Farrell, CEO of the Gaelic Players Association added: “There is more and more evidence to suggest that there is a tangible link between off field development and on field success across a range of sports which is important information for everyone involved in our games.

“Our ambition in the GPA is to have one of the best Player Development Programmes in the world so that county players, who are commercially harnessed for the wider benefit of the GAA, are properly supported with their off field careers. To make that a reality it requires us to think differently about player development and to invest heavily in it ensuring that more and more players transition from the county game prepared for life after. It is also imperative that the county game continues to prosper and maintains its pre-eminence on the sporting calendar.”

While the largest numbers supported remain in the education category, the most significant rise – over 35 percent increase on 2013 – has been in the area of Personal Development Coaching.

This intensive one-on-one coaching assists players in recognizing the individual traits they possess as athletes which are transferable into other important areas of their lives. Each player is also supported in the production of a personal development plan.

There was also a marked increase in the number of players supported through the GPA’s Personal Counselling service in the wake of the high profile WeWearMore Campaign launched last May.

The new GPA Madden Leadership Programme will commence in 2015 with the first intake of players in March.

GPA Player Development Programme 2014

Number of players supported in 2014:

Business Start Up - 22

Career development - 104

Communications & Presentations Skills - 34

Education Advice - 40

Training Courses - 147

Third Level Scholarships - 444

Financial Advice - 34

Personal Counseling - 117

Personal Development Coaching - 158

Personal Case Management - 74

Cardiac Screening - 390

Enhanced Injury Scheme - 2250

Gum Shields - 875

Benevolent Fund - 8

Armagh footballer Kevin Dyas, left, Limerick hurler Donal O'Grady and Kilkenny hurler Cillian Buckley, right at the launch of the Gaelic Players Association's Annual Report for 2014.SPORTSFILE