The country’s desperate financial state , and lack of employment opportunities, has as we well know hit the GAA badly, particularly in rural Ireland, with most clubs and counties mourning the loss of numerous stars, particularly to Australia, Britain and the United States.
Here on SportsNewsIreland we have already covered various initiatives from the GAA and the GPA to ‘assist’ . Just how bad the situation has become for some players – and their families – was a subject dwelt upon by GPA Chief Executive , Dessie Farrell, last evening when introducing a wide ranging 450 new scholarships programme for students.
Farrell told journalists that the number of players who had made application to the GPA’s Benevolent Fund for financial assistance in recent months had risen dramatically but confirmed that the benevolent fund of the players’ body, as well as the recent confirmation of a five-year funding arrangement with the GAA, was doing much to assist those most players most in need.
He went on : “What we’ve seen in the last few months is a dramatic increase in applications to the benevolent fund … There is a direct correlation between the unemployment rate and the ones who are coming to us. Our unemployment figure was around 15 per cent, it’s hovering around 14 per cent at the minute. The six counties aren’t too bad. Wicklow, Donegal, Louth, Monaghan, they’re among the few black spots. Some of them are genuinely struggling to put food on the table.
“An example would be players who are in mortgage arrears, which can happen for those lads. We’re able to intervene there and put them in touch with a financial adviser to do a bit of budgeting and planning for them.
“And then if there’s a requirement for benevolent assistance, it just gets fellas back on their feet so there’s a support there that wouldn’t have been there a few years ago.
“So behind the PR and the facts and the figures and the stats around the money, there are real live stories and real impact on the ground for players, and which is the manifestation of this five-year agreement.”
The Gaelic Players Association confirmed that 450 scholarships will be distributed among inter-county players for the 2010/2011 academic year as part of the Player Development Programme.
In what is believed to be the most comprehensive educational support programme now in existence in Irish sport, the GPA will provide financial assistance to student players from every squad competing at inter-county level.
Support levels for recipients will vary depending on the qualification criteria, determined by the GPA’s independent Education Committee. Students at second and third level, along with postgraduate students are included in the scheme which covers nearly 70 educational institutions.
The GPA Scholarship Scheme is supported by the GAA through the Player Development Programme for Education. This service also provides financial and advisory support for inter-county players engaged in full or part-time education.
GPA Chief Executive, Farrell, commented: “Educational support is central to the GPA’s Player Development Programme and we are absolutely delighted to be able to assist this number of players in 2011.
“This is the practical manifestation of the Agreement between the GAA and GPA, providing tangible assistance for players in education. “Our goal in the GPA is to help players to develop their careers off the field as well as on it and the Scholarship Programme provides important financial support for players who would otherwise struggle to engage in part-time employment due to their sporting commitments.”