Sunday Game analyst Joe Brolly has called for a ban on non-members managing clubs and insisted county managers should be from within the county.
Brolly made the comments as part of a wide-ranging panel discussion on RTÉ Sunday Sport about player welfare, the balance between club and county commitments and the state of Gaelic football.
Brolly said that “over the last 15 years, we have imported professional sport practices into an amateur, community-based game. And what has happened is that players, in essence, put their lives on hold between the ages of 20 and 30.
“It used to be for club and county and all that. Whenever I was playing football, everyone had careers, they developed their careers. We trained twice a week with the county, maybe three times. It was part of a healthy, balanced life.
“The problem now is that you’ve got some county teams who are training ten times a week.”
In a newspaper column last Sunday, Brolly had said that players were little better than “battery hens”. In a follow-up column he took issue at payments to managers within the GAA.
Brolly told RTÉ Sport that “slowly but surely we are moving away from the community-based idealistic organisation that we’re meant to be.
“Now you’ve got a black market in paid managers. It’s absolutely thriving. Players are suffering like never before. It’s happening at club and county level.”
"We are moving away from the community-based idealistic organisation that we’re meant to be" - Joe Brolly
There was a simple solution to this problem, Brolly said: "only club members should be allowed to manage club sides, and only those from a county should be allowed to manage the county team."
Brolly added that the current approach had turned the culture within the game “toxic” and that there was now “a win-at-all-costs philosophy”.
The Derry native went even further by explaining that nothing is being done about managers being paid, and because these managers had time on their hands, and extensive back-room staff, they devised professional training regimes for their players.
“What happens is, the players’ lives become entirely controlled, and nothing has been done to prevent this.”
Brolly claimed that six current inter-county players had contacted him following his column last weekend to express relief that someone was tackling the issue.
“We should be ashamed of ourselves, with what we have allowed to happen,” he said.
He said “primary fault” lay with the leadership of the GAA, who had been warned of the dangers of professional practices, but had done nothing to combat this.
Also on the panel was long-time Limerick football stalwart, John Galvin, who announced his retirement from the inter-county game last week after 16 seasons playing for Limerick.
Asked if he agreed with Brolly’s description of inter-county players as battery hens, and whether he had felt like that, Galvin said “absolutely not” and that inter-county players were there by their own choice.
“We should be ashamed of ourselves, with what we have allowed to happen" - Joe Brolly on the professional training methods in Gaelic games
However, he agreed with Brolly that he had seen a big change in the level of commitment required from inter-county players.
“It’s gone to a different level altogether,” Galvin said. “When I started in 1999 ... you’re training twice a week, you enjoyed a drink after the game ... It did have the sense of community because we were allowed socialise after the game.
“I’m not saying we were going out having a great time, but after a game, we’d play a league match, we’d go down to the local hotel, we’d have a few drinks and we’d talk with the supporters and everything like that.
“But over the last 10 or 12 years, that’s completely changed. You play your match, you have your dinner, and you have to go home, start your recovery.”
Michael McDonagh, chairman of the Clare County Board, called for the inter-county season to be shortened and said there were too many competitions.
“The clubs and players are suffering because of this situation,”
McDonagh said. “Any successful county are finding it difficult to complete their domestic competition in time.”