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‘I think players are just getting fed up’ – Cora Staunton believes player exodus is due to ongoing welfare issues

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Staunton made the comments at a media briefing in the aftermath of the GPA’s AGM, where a number of motions were passed, among them one from three players advocating that the GPA engage with the LGFA to secure appropriate injury cover to safeguard inter-county players from financial hardship and loss.

Kerry footballer Fiadhna Tangney was at the briefing to give her personal account of being out of pocket up to €2,300, the difference between the cost of surgery and rehabilitation for a quad injury and what the injury benefit was.

She outlined that he has suffered a recurrence and will require a similar procedure now and most likely a similar cost.

Staunton, for many LGFA’s greatest exponent, senses players are “fed up” of the shortcomings.

“I feel like I’m the one talking about it year in and year out, but the same things were happening 16/17 years ago that are happening now,” she said. “I’m an impatient person, I think the change needs to be a lot quicker. I think our players are just getting fed up and don’t feel they are being looked after enough. So they are exploring different avenues whether that is other sports or just going away from the game.”

Last year Clare hurler Shane O’Donnell successfully pushed for an improvement in the weekly allowance for GAA players who miss work because of injury. That’s now €700 per week, on top of social welfare, up from €300.

Charters for ladies’ football and camogie players have been put in place to cover some expenses and medical and strength-and-conditioning provisions but there was some scepticism at the briefing as to whether the charters are fulfilling obligations in all counties.

“We’ve agreed to periods, end of league, end of championship, when expense payments are claimed,” said GPA chief executive Tom Parsons. “Then we need to evaluate what has been implemented.

“September will be a big consultation phase for us in terms of: how did it work?, where are the improvements?, how can we implement this better?. So it’s very difficult at the moment to be too prescriptive on what’s working and what’s not working,” he added.

Staunton emphasised though that female athletes still feel like “second-class citizens”, pointing to a 5.45 throw-in on Sunday for the Mayo v Armagh All-Ireland quarter-final in the Athletic Grounds.

She cited the prospect of some players not getting home until after midnight on Sunday, depending on where they live in Mayo.

“I think females [athletes] at times, they feel we are grateful for getting something,” said Staunton. “They are grateful just to get that [12 cent per mile], why should they be ‘grateful’? They are giving up as much time as the male inter-county players – training three, four, five times a week – whether that’s on field or in the gym, recovery sessions. If you are out of pocket?”

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