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GPA CEO Paul Flynn pictured in January.
GPA CEO Paul Flynn pictured in January.

Paul Flynn: 'It is all about balance'

By Cian O'Connell

GPA Chief Executive Officer Paul Flynn is adamant that inter-county players must find a correct balance in their daily lives.

Ahead of Wednesday evening's GPA AGM, which will be held remotely, Flynn discussed the concept of sustainable amateurism during a press briefing.

The former Dublin forward stressed that the GPA isn't pushing for any sort of a professional model.

"Sustainable amateurism is built on the idea that the players are amateur athletes and that they have, and should be given space to have, a career off the field and space to build personal relationships with family and friends," Flynn says.

"The idea of sustainable amateurism was defined by the National Executive Committee through a strategy session earlier in January and ultimately it really is about striking a balance.

"There's an imbalance at the moment, there's plenty of them at the moment, it can be around 31 hours being spent on inter-county, that's an imbalance, the balance between club and county is an imbalance, the balance between life on and off the pitch, there's plenty of them.

“I believe that by having a sustainable amateur model everything else we do can fall underneath it, including fixtures reform, including the programmes that we deliver, including a balance between a player's voice versus an administrator's voice. It's all about balance.

Paul Flynn in action for his club Fingallians this month.
Paul Flynn in action for his club Fingallians this month.

"It's not what some might believe or feel that we're trying to push towards a professional model, absolutely not, it's built on sustainable amateurism, but it has to be built on balance as I just highlighted."

Player representation, player welfare, and player development are the three pillars the GPA stress. Mayo midfielder and GPA Secretary Tom Parsons is adamant about trying to ensure footballers and hurlers prosper on and off the field.

"I think a good word to use as well is to allow our players to thrive," Parsons remarks.

"I love that concept of the three Ps, that's what we're about, we want players not just to have balance but to be able to thrive on the field, to thrive in their personal lives and to thrive professionally.

"The findings that we have from our GPA research certainly is indicating that players aren't thriving unfortunately in other aspects of life and for me personally it's that balance and that ability to thrive that is sustainable amateurism."

A motion set to be debated is for inter-county players to devote less time to preparing for that level. "One of the motions that we're bringing which we highlighted there is the idea of optimal contact hours," Flynn comments.

"The idea of contact hours is something that is used in other sports and is certainly used in sports science to identify what is the ideal or optimal time required for high performing athletes to be able to deliver on their chosen sports.

Mayo midfielder and GPA Secretary Tom Parsons.
Mayo midfielder and GPA Secretary Tom Parsons.

"With the contact hours model we believe that using sports science, using the information that we have which we highlighted from the ESRI report and using our own intel as well, we believe that we can identify what best practice is.

“I often give an example that in all my years playing under Jim Gavin, I believe we trained less than every other county in the country.

"That was always my belief when I spoke to other players, when I learned about what they were doing, I always was feeling that we were doing less and it was because we were playing it smart.

“I believe that if we can adopt a very smart training model across the country we can definitely reduce the 31 hours while still allowing the game to naturally develop and grow and evolve because it’ll be based of sports science and management."

Negotiations also continue with the WGPA about adopting a more formal partnership in the near future according to Flynn.

"As highlighted, it was a motion on the floor last year at the AGM," Flynn admits. "The fact that we did a two-hour workshop as well with the players that were there, there were 65 players there, discussing their views on it and getting their feedback on it also so it is a key strategic initiative from ourselves and from the WGPA.

"I think that it's going to be a fantastic outcome once we can complete it.

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