BY DENIS HURLEY
DEREK Kavanagh admits that the primary challenge for the new Club Players’ Association is making players aware of the cause and getting them involved.
The CPA was set up just over a week ago in a bid to aid the welfare of those playing GAA with their clubs, with the primary aim being to ‘fix the fixtures’. Former Cork captain Kavanagh is on the committee of the new body and, having spent much of his life playing football, he knows that getting the message through won’t necessarily be easy.
‘There are a few elements to it,’ he says.
‘The first bit is just the launch, with TV and radio and newspapers, just raising awareness. What we’re starting next is a regional, grassroots-based spreading of the word, literally putting posters up in a club.
‘It’s not until people see it at club level that they begin to trust it, because I know what the psyche of a GAA player is like, I played from when I was four until I was 30.
‘A GAA player will say, “I want to train, and I want to play. I do not want to go to any AGM, I do not want to think about meetings. Getting me to pay my subscription is more than enough, and in fact I’ll be four months late paying that subscription”.
‘They don’t want to think about politics and you just have to convince them that this is quite simply right versus wrong and there is no other motive involved.
I’ve had too many conversations with a guy in a dressing room or in a bar, they all end with, “Someone has to do something” – we’re here and we’re trying to do something.’
While everybody agrees that there is a problem, it will take strength in numbers to bring about a solution.
‘The big aim is to see how many people want to be represented by it,’ Kavanagh says.
‘That’s the first drive, to allow people to buy into it. In theory, we could be representing 100,000 people or thereabouts and that’s powerful in its own right then.
‘I don’t think that there are too many players out there who are happy with the way things are organised now and this is a big group designated with one very simple purpose – to force change in the fixtures.
‘It’s the biggest talking point every year and this is a great opportunity just to highlight it. There does seem to be an appetite, a bit of a storm coming.
‘Every year, you’ll see an article from some person – for example, Jim McGuinness – saying, “This is how the championship should be run”. That points to there being something radically wrong and unbalanced with the current guise and it can’t last.
‘It’s on its last legs and it’s only waiting for someone to take a bullet and blow it out of its misery. When you have everybody talking about change, it is going to happen.’
To that end, the CPA is ensuring that it has as wide a presence as possible.
‘You would think that it wouldn’t and shouldn’t be needed,’ Kavanagh says.
‘Anyone in the GAA will tell you that it’s a democratic association, that if anyone has a problem they can raise it with their club, the club can raise it at the county board, the county board can bring it to Congress.
‘It’s perfect in theory, and it works for certain things, but often people would think that a task is too big to tackle. But if you have widespread discontent and you have someone from every county, going to every county board and 32 counties putting the same motion on, then it will change.
‘What the CPA will do is link clubs together, as the problems in Tyrone will be similar to those in Kildare or Cork.’
Kavanagh knows that there are no quick fixes and the project has to be seen as a medium-to-long-term one. Engaging directly with clubs is the next step.
‘We’ll hopefully have some workshops where players will be welcomed in, with question-and-answer sessions,’ Kavanagh says.
‘We’ll have to start having a presence in clubs, even just a 30-second speech before a training session would go a long way.
‘It’s going to take that level of effort, you can’t just launch it and have a couple of newspaper interviews and think it’s going to spread. We have to complement that with other efforts.
‘We’re setting ourselves up basically for some bit of movement in 2018.’
Players can register for free on www.gaaclubplayers.com