The GAA is a well and truly cemented within Irish society. The Picture to the left is a map of Ireland and every dot represents a GAA pitch which shows the extent to which we value our traditional sports. Every parish across the country is represented in a GAA club and people are proud to be a part of such an amazing organisation. People who are new to the sport are fixated with the passion that Irish people have for it and often say; “the top players must get very well paid.” When in actual fact the top players do not get a cent!
The GAA is one of the world’s biggest amateur organisations in the world and Croke Park is one the largest stadiums in Europe in terms of its capacity. For a country as small as Ireland, it is hard to believe that these are the facts behind the GAA. So why do the players not get a cent of money, especially at the top levels for the guys who commit most of their lives to playing for their county? Well, the shameful fact of the matter is that even though the GAA is one of the world’s richest organisations, they do not reward their main workers financially because, like the organisation, the sport is also an amateur sport.
What would possess a player to commit so much of their lives to playing Gaelic or Hurling then? Well, the answer lies in the passion that the natives have for the sport. As previously stated, it is rooted in every parish within the country and people play for simply the love of the sport. The sport itself is native to Ireland and the Irish people seem to have an affinity for their homegrown sports.
Money does not sour the involvement of the GAA (at the playing level at least). This is not like soccer where money talks and if a club’s bank balance is large enough you can have almost any player you want and build a “dream team”. The building of a successful Gaelic or Hurling team takes years of dedication and support from players and indeed coaches. The coaches at club level are rarely paid, and never paid in fact for coaching underage football. Again, this stems back to having the love for the sport. To develop a good team you must nurture every player you have and try to get them to develop to the best of their own ability.
As the player develops through their life and other priorities come to fruition, this is when you have to make decisions on whether you want to train or go on a night out. These decisions are often not easily made depending on the occasion but more often than not, the more dedicated players decide to commit to going to training or games and miss certain nights out or events so as to not let the team down. This type of commitment is unparalleled in most amateur sports, especially when the commitment levels are so high and so much is expected of players.
However, it’s not just the players that give their time to the sport. It is also everyone involved at a local level from the committee members to the person who cuts the grass to the person who collects the money at the gate going into games on Sunday afternoons. These types of people do not have the pleasure of playing the sport like the players do yet they still commit hours of their time to help the club and the players achieve as much as possible.
I for one have an undying passion for the GAA and long for the nice summer days out in Croke Park. The commitment to the game, I don’t think will ever leave me and I hope to stay involved for as long as time permits.