Former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness was feeling reflective today following the conclusion of the 2015 GAA season. Writing in his Irish Times column, the All-Ireland winning mentor discussed the level of sacrifice, prestige and dedication that goes along with wearing the county jersey.
GAA purists are in agreement that these are the core ingredients for success. But while McGuinness argues that the players voluntarily commit themselves to this pilgrimage, he also feels that they come out a little short changed at the end of it all.
And in relation to his own experience with Donegal, McGuinness laments that some of the players are still waiting to be reimbursed for missing out on the team holiday in the last year of his reign.
Seven of last year’s squad who were, for various reasons, unable to travel on the official holiday to Dubai, have yet to receive any sort of holiday voucher from the Donegal county board. As it happens, I am one of the seven. But I wouldn’t be addressing this if this concerned just me.
The Glenties man added that he felt particularly sorry for players who were unable to attend the team holiday because they had used up their annual leave in order to be present for training.
McGuinness felt this was the right time to express his grievance after remaining silent about it during Donegal's All-Ireland campaign.
There is this old thing about Donegal washing dirty linen in public. I am doing that now because there is no other option. It isn’t about the holiday as much as respect. People should be tripping over themselves to make sure the boys get some little bit of thanks for all of the untold hours they put in.
The Donegal county board decreed that holiday vouchers could not be arranged for players because of an 'implication with revenue'. But when McGuinness consulted with Croke Park, he was informed that this was not the case.
A total of €80,000 was handed over by Croke Park for the holiday fund, and if the non-travelling parties receive a voucher then there is no implication. Those I spoke to within the GAA were sympathetic to what was said.
Donegal are one of the few teams in the GAA with structures in place that have a professional element to them. But if some of their players are still going without fundamental rewards after all their efforts, perhaps we should reopen the debate about making Gaelic games professional?