While in recent weeks it has seemed like sport has separated itself from the recession. Irish people have found comfort, entertainment and perhaps most of all distraction in the victories of Shane Lowry at the Irish Open and Leinster in the Heineken Cup final. However, sport and those who play it are not immune from the effects of the recession and as we head into the summer and the GAA Championships, it is becoming all too clear that footballers and hurlers are also experiencing the negative effects of the downturn.
We do not expect an amateur game to be affected by a weak economy, after all, unlike the Premiership, GAA clubs do not have to fork out several million euro in wages each week. All that is required is a group of young men or women who live in the county or near enough to attend training a few evenings each week. Unfortunately, as more of these young people leave college and are faced with few job prospects and others are let go from their current jobs, staying in the county and devoting time and energy to the GAA must take a back seat. Many may have to leave the country; others may need to commit themselves solely to the search for employment. This leaves the GAA and its many clubs in a worrying position. However, there may be some hope in the form of a new website set up by the Gaelic Players Association, http://www.gaelicplayers.com/jobs. Companies advertise jobs which are directly aimed at gaelic football, hurling and camogie players. The website has been live for less than a day and already eleven jobs have been posted across all areas, four in sales and marketing, two in manufacturing/operation and others in tourism and engineering to name a few. Regardless of the area, someone who is committed to a Gaelic club shows that they are willing to work as part of a team and are truly dedicated, qualities any employer would hope to have in a new recruit. Of course, a highly successful player can also act as a public face for a company, such as Seán Og O’hAilpín who works for Ulster Bank.
But will this be enough for the players and the GAA itself? In all likelihood it will only help a small proportion of those looking for work. Even if the eleven jobs currently posted are all given to GAA players, that makes up less than one full football or hurling team. Between the hurling and football championships, 45 teams will compete this year for the Liam McCarthy and Sam Maguire cups. Perhaps more jobs will be advertised on the GPA website, but if the jobs are not available, a website will not be enough to keep players at home. It is inevitable that teams will lose players in the very near future but regardless of a player’s commitment and our own desire to be entertained by gaelic sports this summer, a mortgage and a family will always, and should always come first.