As part of the new working arrangements between the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and the Gaelic Players Association (GPA), the two organisations have commissioned the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) to examine the challenge of life style balance in the lives of senior inter-county players.
The new agreement, unveiled last July, committed to establish a joint working group comprised of players, administrators and others to draft proposals with the intention of assisting amateur intercounty players to better manage their personal and professional lives. This research work by the ESRI is an important first step in that process.
The commissioned research gives players the opportunity to engage in confidence with an independent research project. The evidence provided from the research will then be used by the joint working group to inform the design of measures aimed at assisting inter-county players to achieve more balance between their playing, personal and professional lives.
All 1,962 players from the 2016 inter-county championship panels will be contacted to participate in the research. For the first time, players will have the opportunity to portray the demands of senior intercounty football and hurling, and give their views on how best to support player welfare.
The project will commence immediately and the research findings will be published in December 2017.
In addition to examining the demands of inter-county football and hurling, this research will also provide the first profile of senior inter-county footballers and hurlers against which future generations of players can be compared with. GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghail said: "I welcome the announcement of this initiative. A lot has been said and written about the well documented challenges associated with playing our games at the highest levels and the commitment involved.
"Involvement in our games at inter-county level should not come to the detriment of the personal development of our players and we have committed to working with the GPA to establish a clear view of the situation using the expertise of the ESRI. "I look forward to their findings and to working to improve a crucial area of player welfare."
GPA Chairman Seamus Hickey added: "The establishment of a joint working group between the GPA and GAA to review the challenge of life style balance for inter county players was an important agreed objective in the new GAA/GPA Recognition Protocol.
"This research study will be a vital first step in establishing a comprehensive picture of all the issues that impact on players life style balance. "The deliberations of the joint working group, informed by this research study, should lead to concrete recommendations that can help address the challenges faced by players both on and off the pitch."
ESRI Director Alan Barrett said: "The Institute is delighted to have the opportunity to contribute its research expertise to this important project. Gaelic games play a central role in Irish society. Our engagement with the GAA and the GPA is an exciting new route through which we aim to fulfil our broad remit of developing insights into various aspects of life in Ireland."