It is always sad to see sportsmen and sportswoman having to give up due to injury. Usually when this happens to an inter-county player it generates media headlines.
Club players, too, can often be faced with the unenviable decision of having to pack in their favourite sport on medical advice.
Facing the stark reality of having to give up your favourite sport is difficult for any player but ultimately medical advice cannot be ignored. During the past week Meath footballer Shane McAnarney revealed he had to abandon his inter-county career due to a serious medical issue which required surgery.
Continuing to play Gaelic football, at any level, was not an option. McAnarney was fortunate because the ailment which ultimately required surgery was detected during a routine medical check-up for the Meath players.
Nowadays most inter-county players receive annual checks and medical issues, although generally very rare for such elite athletes, can surface. McAnarney’s medical procedure was costly but he was fortunate to receive financial help from the GPA.
The GAA and the GPA are very much of one mind when it comes to player welfare.
Since its recognition by the GAA, the players’ representative body has placed much emphasis on the well being of inter-county players. In these strident times many players cannot afford costly health insurance and depend to a significant degree on the support of the GPA, County Boards and clubs.
Aside from any financial help which inter-county players might receive from the GPA, I know that County Boards are never slow to help any of them who need support with medical expenses.
The level of support to individuals will vary from county to county depending on the resources available to each County Board. Unfortunately, there is an inherent unfairness in this system because it is impossible for every County Board to offer the same level of support.
The GPA can look at each case on its merits and determine the scale of support depending on the severity of the issue. It is not restricted in the same way as County Boards.
While every club player will rejoice at the successful treatment received by Shane McAnarney, many will no doubt look enviously at the help available to inter-county players. So too will clubs who are often left on their own to support players who find they must face costly medical treatment.
At least the Player’s Injury Scheme is fair to all players, whether they are involved at inter-county or club levels. Lest we forget inter-county players are also club players.
It was made clear, though, that the GPA would be a representative body for inter-county players and they have fulfilled that role very well to date. It is interesting to note the focus which the GPA has placed on the US for its fund raising efforts. The body’s ability to forge links with benefactors in the US has been very successful and just reward for the efforts of its leading officers.
In the past week the GPA was back in New York and provided significant funding to the New York GAA players fund. While the GPA has made some progress developing partnership with Irish businesses, greater opportunities will emerge in the future as the economy improves.
The GAA has enjoyed a hugely successful year and most credit for this must go to the players for the many enjoyable games they produced. GAA grounds around the country, plus the jewel in the crown that is Croke Park, have all contributed to a successful 2013. There is a feel good factor as the year ebbs to a conclusion.
Incidentally, the recent awarding of the Marketer of the Year award to Croke Park Stadium, Director Peter McKenna and his team for the successful marketing campaigns they ran in 2013 all helps to enhance the profile of the ’Association. The GPA will benefit from this enhanced profile as it strives to forge new partnerships, all aimed at increasing financial resources to help inter-county players. A decade ago it was difficult to envisage the GPA having such a positive impact on player welfare.