This morning I'm president of the Gaelic Athletic Association. I'm sorry if this comes as a shock to you all but, it's true, it's me! And, as you know, as a manager's man and as a player's man I'm going to make a lot of fast changes around here. All county managers are going to be offered full-time and part-time contracts. All footballers and hurlers are going to get bags and bags of kit, pallets of energy drinks, double the individual allowances for an agreed set of expenses during the playing season and personalised family holidays during the off-season. And our footballers and hurlers may even get bundles of hard cash too, who knows?
All of this, and the GAA will not go bankrupt, not on my watch. Promise.
I'm going to take all of these decisions this morning. I don't need any help or further discussion and I don't need any time to think about it. Tomorrow morning?
Tomorrow, I'm going to hold a press conference in Croke Park at which I will disclose to everybody in the Gaelic Athletic Association exactly how much every official in the place earns. Starting with me. Then I'm going to continue with my Director General Páraic Duffy and move down through the employee names until the wages, expenses, pension contributions, and ice cream man money of every official in every county in the country is revealed for the first time.
I have no idea what they are but I'm pretty sure there are loads of things I've got to do on Tuesday. Wednesday's going to be mad, probably, beginning with all the emails building up over the last three days. Does the president of the GAA have his own personal mail address? Got to check that. But Thursday or Friday, I'm going to get around to the Gaelic Players Association.
I'm not going to bother myself with the GPA on my first Monday morning. They may suddenly be looking for five per cent of all the GAA's summer revenue and they will certainly be making most of the noise outside the door of my nice, medium-sized office but the GPA can wait. Dessie Farrell and Donal Óg Cusack can take out a pack of cards and amuse themselves for a few days. That is not meant to antagonise the pair of them. I will talk to them. I've met Dessie only once, years ago, but I've never had the pleasure of meeting Donal yet.
The pair of them are good, decent lads in my opinion, and as bosses of the GPA they are firm in their beliefs and as honest about their convictions and actions as the day is long, I'm sure. But they'll still have to wait a few days nevertheless. Because, do you know what? I'm still not at all sure about the GPA.
Very unsure if I am to be completely truthful this morning, the day before my first official morning, don't forget, as president of the GAA.
As those of you who pause for a little while at this page of the Tribune on Sunday mornings well know, there are not very many things in GAA life, or GAA wildlife, about which I ever confess to being unsure about. But the Gaelic Players Association?
They've been around the place, for what? A decade? More? And, still, even for me, as someone who loves his Gaelic footballers and hurlers, the GPA is a strange, grayish, muddle of an association.
I'm not even sure if it's an association at all, in the strictest sense of the world. An association is a defined, legitimate, well-chartered body. The GPA, to me, is still a group of well-meaning players and former players who have the interests of the best and hardest-working footballers and hurlers at heart but I do not have any clear and absolute proof of any mandate they may carry for all of the footballers and hurlers, county and club, in Ireland.
The GPA troubles me, it does. I just don't feel comfortable at all at the prospect of sitting down over tea, coffee and biscuits with Dessie, Donal and anybody else who might turn up and sit down at the table opposite me.
Why are some past players in the GPA and others not? Come to think of it, why haven't I ever received a phone call or a text message from Dessie? How can Peter Canavan be a member of the GPA? If I'm going to try to understand all of this, then will someone please explain to me how Peter can be a member of the GPA, and me, your president, a former Meath foot-soldier, not be a member of the GPA?
I don't want to be a member of the GPA, definitely not. I've enough on my plate now that I've got this job. But it's a question I'd like to get an answer to because it would help me to understand how the Gaelic Players Association is organized and administered as a fairly constituted, and democratic, organisation. Peter Canavan played for Tyrone in the first half of the '90s. I played for Meath in the first half of the '90s. It's not like I'm 25 or 35 years older than Peter.
Anyhow, not that it matters. I'm president and I need answers to far more important questions before I can make up my mind on what to say at my first meeting with the lads. So many questions to which, honestly and truly, nobody has provided me with answers to over the last decade.
Please, I do not want anyone to be offended or in any way insulted by the long list of questions I need to have answered asap. The sooner I get these questions answered then the sooner I will know what I need to do about the GPA and what to say to the lads when I meet them.
I've no problem buying them lunch if it comes to it. But it had better be a three- or four-course lunch because I need reminding of so many things. I need updating. I need good information. I can't even remember how Dessie Farrell got the job of GPA chief? I've no idea of the terms of his contract, no idea of to whom he reports (is there a committee or group of players who meet and question him and judge his performance annually?), and I have not got a clue if the GPA membership have the right to replace him if they feel he is not doing enough for them.
Which leads me to a few more questions? How many GPA members are there? Why does the GPA communicate so often with this membership by text message? When they meet, why do they close their doors to the media and the general public? It might seem that I am very fussy all of a sudden asking so many questions but I'm president of the Gaelic Athletic Association, one of the oldest and most respected associations in the country, of any kind, and an association which doesn't allow me to buy laces for my own shoes without a special resolution at our annual congress getting a two-thirds majority vote.
The GAA is a God-almighty association and if I am going to sit down on behalf of my 750,000 members with some other association and agree to write them some nice big cheques then I'd like to know exactly who they are, how they work, and where they are going.
Personally, I'd have no great problem giving them five per cent of the gate and TV revenues from the championship. I'd be happy to give them 10 per cent. I think they wholly deserve at least 10 per cent and, furthermore, I've no doubt in the wide earthly world that the GAA can afford to be this generous. We've spent €50 million, or €100 million, more maybe, on county grounds and floodlights over the last 10 years. I'll have to get the finance department to do an exact tally on that when I get in to my new office tomorrow morning. During the next 10 years I'd be happy to give this sort of money to the players. Definitely.
All I want are answers, some more clarity, greater understanding. Then I'll be more than happy to deal with the Gaelic Players Association, tomorrow morning if needed. I'd talk to the Gaelic Players Union, or the Gaelic Players Front, for that matter, and I'd fully recognize either of them just as quickly as the Gaelic Players Association, if they walked around the corner and showed me their full membership base, and evidence of this membership's voting records and decision making.
I'll talk to the GPA, the GPU and the GPF, and I'll talk to them all individually, or at the same time. I'll let the three of them share out all the money I give them. I'll wish them well. I'll know I've done the right thing and that I've done a good job on behalf of my own members.
I'm the president of the GAA and, let me repeat, I love Gaelic footballers and hurlers.