By Kieran Murphy
IT was appropriate to meet Cormac Mullins, Carlow co-ordinator for the nascent Club Players Association (CPA), at Netwatch Cullen Park on Saturday. It was a funny kind of day. Over in Galway, IT Carlow had featured in a first ever Fitzgibbon Cup final. On the east coast, in Croke Park controversy reigned as the Super Eight was brought in while the Gaelic Club Players Association failed to get recognition at National Congress 2017. Then, at venues around the country it was back to the bread and butter of the national football leagues with Carlow hosting Limerick. A lot was happening.
There was also enough going on to make Cormac Mullins’ blood boil. Having been contacted by Declan Brennan, the national CPA founder, the Éire Óg clubman agreed to become the Carlow co-ordinator for the Club Players Association (CPA). Also involved is Palatine’s Jason Kane, and Joe Nolan, a player and an administrator with Ballinkillen and Fenagh.
Mullins claims over 20,000 have joined the CPA at national level while already 200 Carlow club players have registered.
“Because of the state of club football at the moment and the fixtures crisis, I agreed to come on board,” explains Mullins.
He seethes at what he describes as the gross injustice of the decision-making process of Congress. 76% of delegates agreed to trial Central Council proposals to introduce a Super Eight competition involving the top eight teams who qualify for the All-Ireland quarter-finals. These will be split into two groups of four and will play-off in a round-robin system. The top two from each group will qualify for the semi-finals.
This is the brainchild of Paraic Duffy, Director General of the GAA. Mullins says players’ views are not being taken into account.
“The GPA [Gaelic Players Association] came out 70-30 against the motion,” says Mullins. “The CPA came out against the motion. In today’s age, you see it now on social media. High-profile players coming out and saying this is a joke. This is a disgrace. Players don’t want this, yet it is being brought in.”
Mullins has won two senior and two under-21 football championship medals with Éire Óg. He was on the last Carlow minor football panel which qualified for a Leinster final in 2007. As a teacher in Carlow CBS, he was a member of the management team when the school won the All-Ireland B final two years ago.
He has played intercounty football but is concentrating solely on club fare now.
He wants meaningful games but won’t get them until much later in the season.
“County boards are not asking players what they want. Without the players, the GAA does not exist. The GAA is not the President. The GAA is not county delegates or club delegates. The GAA is the players,” says Mullins.
“The club player is being forgotten about. There is no truer reflection of that than at Congress itself today where official recognition of the CPA wasn’t granted. There was applause when the motion was withdrawn.
“It shows the disconnect between the top brass and the grass roots. It is not the players in the boots who are getting the fair deal, but the men in the suits who are making the decisions at the moment.”
Mullins makes his points well. There is a distrust between the top brass in the GAA and the fledgling CPA at the moment. It took the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) nearly 10 years to get formal recognition at Congress. The nature of its organisation could mean a longer wait for the CPA.
“The CPA’s main aim, first and foremost, is to fix the fixtures. The CPA is not going away. The CPA is a voice for the players. We want to sit around a table with every interested party. Let us work out a calender which works for club and county going forward.
“Club players need to be playing on a regular basis and need to know when they are playing. It needs to be concrete. It cannot be changed,” said Mullins who says he was frustrated by the nature of last year’s senior football championship in Carlow.
“Last year with Éire Óg we had a match then a three-week break. Then another break before the business end. It is frustrating for club players. You are training all year, gearing yourself up and then a lull.
“We need a schedule where county players are playing with the county but are then also back with their clubs.”
He says this kind of fixture scheduling is rampant in nearly every county in Ireland. He wants the ordinary club player to have a voice and encourages them to go to the website gaaclubplayers.com.
“It takes one minute to register. We need club players’ support. Especially after today (Congress). It showed club players are not thought of. They are almost laughed at. They need to go, sign up and show a strength of voice.
“Hopefully more will join. This is the chance for ordinary club players to do something.”
“We need a fixtures schedule for club and county which is symbiotic. Whatever comes up has to be better than what is there now. We have to sit down and talk about it. We cannot kick the can down the line with the Super Eight. It is the GAA trading dollars for democracy. That’s what was seen in Congress,” Mullins says.