GPA Annual Report 2019

Note from the CEO

Dear member,

2019 was my first full year in the role as CEO of the GPA and what a privilege it has been to work on your behalf.  My priority is keeping you at the centre of all our actions and to reinforce our three core pillars of Player Representation, Player Development and Player Welfare. These pillars, with the player at the centre of everything we do, will continue to be our focus.

We believe that we need to work towards building a modern form of sustainable amateurism where you have balance between your playing, personal and professional lives.

You are the heroes of today inspiring the heroes of tomorrow. I am proud to represent you.

Key Highlights:

I am delighted to inform you that in 2019 we reached more players than ever before with 1448 engaging with our programmes, a growth of 31% versus 2018. To break these player engagements down more specifically; on average 121 players were supported per month or six every day of the week.

These programmes are highly impactful and tailored to the specific needs of players.  Impressively, we were able to do this through careful management of our resources and the tireless work of our team in the GPA office and on the road. Our aim is to continue this growth in player engagements ensuring players strike that balance between life on and off the pitch.

In 2019 we enhanced two new programmes, firstly the Rookie Camp for players as they enter the inter-county game; and the Transition Camp for players as they exit. These are two of my personal favourite programmes and we are looking forward to building on both of these in 2020.

Our player welfare programmes and policies are based on research, best practice and consultation with our advisors on the Player Safety and Welfare committee.

The ESRI Report, GPA Student Report and insights from International Best Practice provide us with rich and valuable data that informs our policies and actions as an association. The two reports have led to detailed action plans which brought a range of developments. One we are very proud of, and which we will build on was the inaugural Balance 2020 Player Welfare conference. This was a conference held for all inter county backroom teams to further enhance their knowledge on player welfare best practices in world sport. There are many other actions from these reports that we will be continuing to action over the course of 2020.

Ensuring that the players’ voice is heard and their views are being considered is a key part of the GPA. For example, it was clear that our football members were against the rule change restricting 3+ handpasses in a row. Their voice proved critical in preventing this change from being implemented. As an association, we need to encourage players to be open to continue to stand up for their beliefs and this was an excellent example.

The views of the players have also been central to how we have engaged with the Fixtures Review Taskforce through our representative Ronán Sheehan.  There are three options on the table now and in 2020 we will engage with you in a process led by Colm Begley to feedback on each option and suggest positive changes where appropriate.

In 2019 we added a second Legends Lunch to the events schedule, due to popular demand and to cater for more past players and legends of the game. It is fantastic to have so many legends of our game coming together and in 2019 we had over 950 attendance over the two events. It was great to be able to honour two true legends of our games at these events – John O’Keeffe and Tony Wall.

Alongside this we had two excellent events in the US in 2019.  We have phenomenal and loyal supporters in the US and we are grateful for their ongoing support. Their generosity allows us to do more for players across our player development programmes and in particular with our emotional wellbeing interventions. Their support allows us to extend our support to the WGPA members.

I would like to thank Maria Kinsella and Gemma Begley from the WGPA for their work in 2019.  We are now more closely aligned with the WGPA than we have ever been, and in a year that was so significant for female sport that is only right and proper.  Negotiations have also been ongoing around developing a more formal partnership between GPA and WGPA which is something you will hear more about in 2020.

Negotiations with the GAA around a new Formal Recognition Protocol deal are ongoing.  We would have hoped to have a deal complete by the end of 2019 but, progress is being made and I would like to thank our negotiating team for the constructive approach adopted.  We will continue to work on your behalf to agree a deal that values your efforts, and recognises the values of the GAA.  I would also like to thank the GAA for their ongoing work in this regard and particularly Director General Tom Ryan.

In 2019, we successfully agreed with Sport Ireland and the Government to a €3 million deal to recognise the players’ and the games’ impact on the economy and also your impact on the cultural fabric of Irish society. I am acutely aware of the importance of this grant for every player. I must also stress that each year this grant is reviewed and the country’s economic stability impacts it. We will continue to work with government officials and Sport Ireland to ensure its longevity.

Our new Strategic Plan is being finalized and will be launched in the first part of 2020.  It will be player-centric and have a laser sharp focus on our pillars of Representation, Development and Welfare.  It will be a framework to help you achieve balance between your playing, personal and professional lives.  That balance will put you on the best footing for success on the field and off.

The GPA is the players. Our strength is in you. Be sure to continue to have your voices heard and focus on your development across your physical, personal and professional lives.

Chairman's Introduction

Dear member,

2019 was another hugely significant year for inter-county players and the games we love to play.  It was also a year that saw further progress in the development of the GPA, your representative body.  Contained within this year’s Annual Report is the outline of those developments and the ongoing work that is being done on your behalf. It is my pleasure, as Chairman of the NEC, to see the commitment to our players lived out in the day to day operation of our Association and standards of services for players maintained and even improved in the process.

Key Highlights:

First and foremost, congratulations on all you achieved during the course of the 2019.  As you know, we do not measure achievement solely by what happens between the white lines, we are here to help players thrive on and off the pitch, but it is important to recognise the excellence and achievements of our peers born out of their dedication and commitment to the games.

As mentioned previously, off the field the GPA had an outstanding year working on your behalf in 2019.  More of the detail on these satisfying strides on your behalf will be detailed later on in this report but the success of our second annual Rookie Camp, our first ever Transition Camp for retirees and our Legends Lunches should be highlighted. These are hugely significant and innovative events that are unique in the GAA, and are the fruits of the constant push to improve the service offerings to players at the beginning and end of their inter county careers, as well as embracing them when their playing days are behind them.

Past players are hugely important to the GPA.  Players today are only building on the legacy handed over by the players of yesterday.  Therefore, the Legends Lunches, planned to coincide with the All-Ireland Final weekends are a big date in the GPA calendar.  It is great to see former players come together to catch-up, chat and reminisce.  We were honoured to be able to recognise Tony Wall (Tipperary Hurling) and John O’Keeffe (Kerry Football) as our Lifetime Achievement winners in 2019.

I also want to thank our friends and donors in the US and all who supported our New York and Boston Gala Dinners.  The vital funds raised at these events allow us to help support the WGPA, allow us to fund our social outreach projects and also help directly fund our Player Development Programmes.

The Super 11s Hurling games in New York saw 10,000 get to see hurling in the Big Apple.  That is not an insignificant number of people who got to see the stars of our game and I want to acknowledge the hard work of Colm Begley and Richie Hogan as the drivers behind the project from a GPA perspective.

However, it is right and fair to say we would have liked to have seen a bigger attendance and we are reviewing the format and structure of the competition with other stakeholders.  We believe strongly in the positive aspects of Super 11s Hurling but it needs to get the right backing from all sides to succeed, as it has done in the past.

Finally, my thanks on behalf of all our members to our CEO Paul Flynn and his team.  2019 was Paul’s first full year in the role and his impact has been huge.  Paul puts players at the heart of very decision he makes that is crucial to how the GPA operates. It is a pleasure to work with him and the team on your behalf, and he is a huge part of my firm belief that the GPA’s work for players will only improve going forward.

It continues to be an honour to serve you the players.  There is lots more to come in 2020 and as always, we need your support.

Le gach dea ghuí.

National Executive Committee

Séamus Hickey


Dónal Óg Cusack


Tom Parsons


Michael Murphy

Podge Collins

Ciaran Kilkenny

Philip Greene

Brian Mulvihill

Mickey Quinn

Matthew O’Hanlon

Neil McManus

Aidan Forker

Brendan Maher

Eoin Price

Collie Moran

David Collins

Keith Rossiter

Noel Connors

Stephen McDonnell

Ronan Sheehan

Seán Murphy


Fergus Clancy


John Glennon



2019 Highlights

Games Related

  • Representation on GAA Fixture Review Task Force pushing the GPA priority areas
    • Limit multiple eligibility
    • A defined off-season for players
    • A more defined April club month
  • Establishment of focus group of players to engage GAA on Tier Two football championship

Squad Charters

  • Squad Charter agreements in place for all 67 squads
  • Representation on behalf of 25 squads resulting in satisfactory resolution to charter and expense issues


  • Publication of second ESRI Report into demands of the inter-county game
  • Indecon report commissioned to examine the economic impact of the inter-county game
  • Publication of the GPA Student Report


  • Four motions passed by AGM delegates
    • Integration with the WGPA
    • Introduction of a Competitive Balance Policy
    • Review of the GAA Concussion Management Guidelines
    • Introduction of a standard online expenses system
  •  Education workshop with 60 GPA squad representatives

Engagement with Athlete Bodies

  • Presentation of GPA Rookie Camp at World Players Association Conference Amsterdam
  • Representation on World Players Association Steering Committee
  • Partner on Erasmus Plus Project to develop international leadership programme

Engagement with Government Bodies

  • Collaboration with Road safety Authority on National road safety campaign with 4 national ambassadors
  • Development of partnership with Webwise for cyber bullying awareness campaign
  • Consultation with committee on communications on anti-hate speech campaign


GPA Student Report

The GPA Student Report was launched on Wednesday 6th November 2019 on the Sport Ireland Sports Campus

It revealed the latest insights into the lives of over a third of GPA members, who are third-level students

63% of the GPA’s student-members are 21 – 24 years of age and 93% are full-time students, and all of them face the specific challenge of managing the demands of being an inter-county player alongside their academic commitments and personal lives

Balance 2020

200 sports professionals attended the inaugural GPA Player Welfare Conference. Balance 2020 took place in Croke Park on Saturday 23rd November 2019.

The primary goal was to bring together multidisciplinary sporting professionals within the GAA to discuss emerging paradigms and elite best practice techniques at the forefront of strength, conditioning and sports medicine.


The conference was hosted by the GPA’s Player Safety and Welfare Committee:

Dr Jim O’Donovan


Sports & Exercise
Medicine Consultant

Dr Ciaran McDonald


Cathal Cregg

Head Strength & Conditioning for Connacht GAA

Enda King

Head of Rehabilitation Sports Surgery Clinic

James Sherry


David Breen

First team physiotherapist
Wasps Rugby

Dr. Brendan Egan

Associate Professor of Sport & Exercise Physiology DCU

Walter Palmer

Former General Secretary EU Athletes

ESRI Report

The first report had looked at the amount of time players dedicate to the inter-county game. The second ESRI report was published in December 2019 following on from the report issued in 2018.

The 2019 report examines a range of other issues relevant to players’ lives, including alcohol consumption, supplement use, their views on player welfare supports and their experiences within the inter-county set-up.

The findings of both of these reports have made a valuable contribution to the evidence base used to inform the development and enhancement of the GPA’s player development and welfare supports.

2019 Welfare Highlights

















Individual Players Supported


Increase on 2018


Programmes Delivered

Engagement Process

2019 Player Development Highlights

Inaugural Linkedin Master Class

GPA Member & LinkedIn employee Ross Bergin delivered a workshop on how to maximise your LinkedIn Profile.


GPA Rookie Camp (First with WGPA)

Over 100 GPA and WGPA members who had recently become part of inter-county panels attended on the Johnstown Estate in Enfield.


Inaugural GPA Transition Camp

The GPA Transition Programme was launched in 2019. A combination of 12 GPA and WGPA retired players took part in the programme.

The programme aims to assist players in preparing for and adjusting to sport transition through a combination of supportive and developmental interventions, extending players career and personal growth beyond their sports environment.


Jim Madden GPA Leadership Programme

32 GPA & WPGA graduates from programme

19 GPA and WGPA graduates from the Special Purpose Award in Professional Leadership

Personal Development – Leadership Masterclass

40 players attended a 1 day Leadership Masterclass for GPA and WGPA members who were hoping to take the first step on their leadership journey.

UUJ Mentroing Programme Launched

The Gaelic Players Association (GPA) and Ulster University Jordanstown collaborated to provide bespoke support services for intercounty student players. The partnership sees GPA members and Ulster University graduates link with current GPA student players so that students are supported on issues they face throughout their playing and academic careers.



48 squads were visited in 2019 with GPA supports for players explained

Squad Rep

3 regional workshops were organised to outline the role and responsibilities of the rep. In 2019 these took place in Carlow, Belfast and Dublin

Player Engagement

5 regional player engagement workshops took place to get players’ opinion on matters of critical importance to them. These took place in Armagh, Athlone, Carlow, Enniskillen and Dublin were led by GPA CEO Paul Flynn.



  • Enhanced Scholarships launched a GMIT, Carlow IT, NUIG and UUJ
  • Celebrated 10 years of partnership with DCU

Games Promotion

  • McDonagh, Ring, Rackard and Meagher Roadshow
  • Separate joint launch of Ring, Rackard and Meagher competitions with GAA

Player Communications

  • Player exclusive app built and launched
  • Website overhauled to become more player focussed


  • New Head of Communications hired – Kieran McSweeney

Events and

Player Alumni – Legends Lunches

For the past 7 years, the GPA have held an annual Former Players Lunch (for hurlers and footballers), honouring the legends of GAA. Due to ever growing popular demand, a second Legends Lunch was introduced in 2019



400 Hurling Legends attended the inaugural GPA Hurling Legends Lunch in Croke Park on the eve of the All Ireland Hurling Final



550 Football Legends attended the GPA Football Legends Lunch in Croke Park on the eve of the All Ireland Football Final

PwC All-Stars

PwC All-Stars Hurling team honoured while Seamus Callanan (Tipperary) and Adrian Mullen (Kilkenny) named as the Hurler of the Year and the Young Hurler of the Year

PwC All-Stars Football team honoured while Stephen Cluxton (Dublin) and Seán Ó Sé (Kerry) named as Footballer of the Year and Young Footballer of the Year

The Champions 15 honoured outstanding performances and contributions in the Joe McDonagh, Christy Ring, Lory Meagher and Nicky Rackard Hurling championships.

  • Paddy Purcell (Laois) Joe McDonagh Player of the Year

  • Jack Regan (Meath) Christy Ring Player of the Year

  • Keith Raymond (Sligo) Nicky Rackard Player of the Year

  • Ronan Crowley (Lancashire) Lory Meagher Player of the Year

Our Work
In the USA

The GPA is hugely appreciative of the support it has received from the Irish American community in the United States.

These donors have made a direct impact on the lives of inter-county players for which players will eternally grateful.

The money raised by the GPA’s US fundraising programme is used to:

Fund our player development programmes

Fund our joint initiatives with the WGPA

Fund our social outreach programmes

In 2019 successful fundraising events were held in Boston and New York. The highlight was undoubtedly the Super 11 games held in New York’s Citi field Baseball Stadium in November in partnership with the GAA, Fenway Sports Management and Aer Lingus who were again the Official Airline of the event.

Super 11S hurling classic citi field, new york

Kilkenny took home the Players Champions Cup after a four-team tournament involving themselves, Tipperary, Limerick and Wexford

CEO champions lunch Boston

250 attendees heard from keynote speaker Sam Kennedy of the Boston Red Sox and a panel discussion involving top male and female inter-county players

GPA New York Gala

350 attendees came along on the eve of the Super 11s Hurling Classic, for what was the seventh year of this event was on eve of Super 11’s. Seán Mulryan (Ballymore Group) was honoured on the night for his support of players and charities all over Ireland

Golf event & PwC reception San Francisco

Networking event at PwC’s offices in San Jose was followed by a golf event organised in partnership with Fáilte Ireland at TPC Harding Park



RSA Partnership

The GPA and WGPA partnered with the RSA to promote road safety awareness. The dangers of using a mobile phone while driving and driver fatigue were the initial focusses of the campaign which will run for three years.

Laura Lynn – Children’s Hospice Week

The GPA partnered with Laura Lynn to help launch Children’s Hospice Week. The work carried out by Laura Lynn is vital not only to the children but also to supporting the families in one of the most difficult times they are every likely to face.

Webwise Conference

The GPA funded the a Webwise Conference promoting responsible and safe behaviour online which was run in conjunction with Gaelic Voices for Change. GAA clubs from all over the country attended.

The World’s Big Sleep Out

The GPA and the WGPA supported The World’s Big Sleep Out which seeks to raise awareness and funds for organisations which support homeless people in our society. Players took part in sleep outs in Dublin and Belfast.


In 2019, we surpassed our strategic goal of delivering 75% of net revenues to Player Development Programmes and Player Welfare.

Total Revenue

Government Grants 40%

GAA Core Funding 39%

Commercial 12%

Fundraising 8%

Membership & Benevolent 1%

Total Expenditure

Player Development Programmes /Player Welfare 81%

Operating Costs 14%

Other Programmes 3%

Organisational Development 1%

Surplus retained 2%