BY KIERAN McCARTHY
REPUBLIC of Ireland soccer legend Tony Cascarino has warned the GAA to never turn professional.
The former Ireland striker cautioned that Gaelic football and hurling would lose their identity if the codes ever turned professional.
Having witnessed how the influx of money has changed professional soccer in England and also having enjoyed his brief taste of the GAA when taking part in Celebrity Bainisteoir in 2011, Cascarino has experienced both sports, and he knows what makes the GAA special and unique in Irish society.
‘What I love about the GAA is that everyone chips in, everybody helps out, everybody plays a part within a club – I love that and I enjoy that. Football can never be that. It’s sad, but it can never, ever be what the GAA is, and have what Gaelic football and hurling have,’ explained Cascarino, who was the special guest at last Saturday night’s Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star Awards in Rosscarbery.
‘I admire the GAA and there was also a part of me that realised during Celebrity Bainisteoir that the GAA can only function in its current state, as an amateur game.
‘If you introduce money to the GAA and flood the game with money – like what is happening in English football – then the GAA would lose what makes it so special: its identity.
‘Football has lost its identity. I still enjoy it, and this is just the path the sport has gone down. But the GAA is in charge of its future and it needs to stay as it is because the people and fans relate to the game and to the players, who could be neighbours and friends.
‘If you started a pay-for-play in the GAA, then you lose what makes the GAA so special – its links to communities in every corner of Ireland.’
The former Chelsea, Celtic and Aston Villa striker proved a huge hit at the 2015 West Cork Sports Star Awards where he entertained fans as the special guest, while he also announced the overall winner – world champion kickboxer Lily de la Cour from Bantry.