Withholding of grants taking toll on GAA players

As Sport Ireland continue to withhold the 2017 grant allowances for senior GAA players, many are struggling without the owed funding, according to those affected.

A senior-level hurler, who wishes to remain anonymous, following instruction from management not to speak to the media, told that many of the younger players on his team are struggling without the grant, especially those who don’t have enough time to work because of their study and sporting commitments.

“A lot of students are struggling as the money was due a few months ago and they rely on that money to keep going. The grant is for our expenses accorded throughout the year such as medical expenses and scans etc.” He said.

“Everyone who made a championship panel in 2017 should receive the grant and so far, nobody has gotten it.”

The grants are being held by the national authority until the GPA agree to give up player addresses to allow for at-home drug testing. Debate has fired between all sides about whether senior level GAA players should be subject to the testing.

The GPA and Sport Ireland have been at a deadlock on the issue since last month.

Acting CEO of the GPA, Limerick hurler Seamus Hickey, slammed the decision to withhold the grants in a column in the Irish Examiner a few weeks ago. Hickey, who is opposing the linking of the grants to the home-testing issue, stated that according to player feedback, many are unhappy with Sport Ireland’s actions.

“I think a line has been crossed as they are basically holding players to ransom- agree to do this or you won’t receive your money- and they don’t seem to be willing to negotiate,” our source said.

Players are owed somewhere between around €700 to €1,700, of state-funded money, depending on how far they advanced in last year’s All-Ireland Senior Football and Hurling Championships.

While many players desire to get their money sooner rather than later, they are not willing to agree to Sport Ireland’s new terms.

“I think it is very unreasonable to expect amateur players to have strangers come to their house unexpectedly and have to give a sample. If we were receiving bigger grants like professional athletes, then it would be different.” Our source added.

“It’s a small sum to cover various expenses which we all have every year, it is not a salary. A lot of us have full time jobs on top of playing”

Players are currently tested at numerous training sessions and on match days by Sport Ireland- who test around 3 to 4 players each time.

Since 2001, only two positive drug tests from inter-county GAA players have been recorded.

After Hickey’s column and numerous player comments, Sport Ireland’s head of anti-doping, Dr Una May, insisted last week that they have always reserved the right to test at home, but their preference is to test at collective training sessions and in competition.

Many are pointing out inaccuracies in Hickey’s statements- such as that the talks took place last month, rather than last December, and players may not be fully clarified on what is happening behind the scenes.

“The GPA have sent representatives to discuss the matter with us and they have informed us with a text of any updates but there hasn’t be much clarity either.” Our source admitted.

“But on the matter of home testing I firmly believe the GAA is a clean sport and the current testing system is adequate.

“We already agreed to blood testing a few years back, the way things are going they’ll expect us to give them our address at all times and where we go on holidays.”