LAST MONDAY’S Irish Examiner carried a somewhat disturbing story about former Cork football Diarmuid Duggan.
The player revealed, in an in-depth interview about his predicament, how he was out of pocket to the tune of €7,000 for medical bills to treat a hip injury that prematurely ended his career at the age of 31.
More worrying than his injury plight, however, was the manner in which he said he had been treated. His attempts to contact Cork secretary Frank Murphy proved fruitless and Duggan says the Cork Co Board ‘washed their hands’ of him.
Duggan had two operations. The first, in March 2009, was funded by the Cork Board, however the player left the Cork panel in July 2009 in a bid to get fit. The first operation failed to cure his ailment and he incurred costs of almost €10,000 trying to source a solution. The Cork Board have not been forthcoming with assistance.
He received a €3,000 grant towards the costs for the second operation. He has pleaded with the Cork Board to aid him, but his calls have gone unanswered, the player still out of pocket by some €7,000.
“Duggan had a condition called ‘Femoral Acetabular Impingement’ whereby a lesion or bump on the ball part of the ball and socket joint in a hip jams on the rim of the socket as movement occurs,” Monday’s Examiner explained.
“Intensive training provokes this condition and in his case caused irreparable damage to his hip joint. He is now left with arthritis in his hip and faces a hip replacement in the future.”
The debate about players’ welfare and player burn-out has been overtaken by the old chestnut of the GAA’s amateur status of late with the up-coming deliberations at Congress on possible payments to managers set to intensify that particular issue. Amateur or otherwise, though, it seems sometimes forgotten that the players are in fact the lifeblood of the association.
Be they the Sam Maguire winning Dubs or the Junior B footballer plodding along in Division 5, the player is what keeps the GAA world turning. Without the players, there would be no GAA, and yet those very warriors who put their bodies on the line for the cause – like Diarmuid Duggan, whose chronic hip injury boils down to his intensive training – seem to be left to their own devices quite often, particularly when they suffer as Duggan has done.
Late in 2010, 1992 Donegal All-Ireland winning captain Anthony Molloy laid bare his own tale of financial hardship, which was again down to what the Ardara man felt was a certain neglect on the part of the Association.
Molloy had underwent surgery ‘seven or eight times’ prior to having a replacement operation conducted in October 2008. All previous had been funded on his own insurance. Molloy was given the choice of attending the Mater Private or to wait for the year. It would come at a cost of €22,000 for the week.
“The way I saw it, I had no option. I was left on the scrap heap, the knee riddled with arthritis,” Molloy said in the book ‘Voices from Croke Park: The Stories of 12 GAA heroes’ edited by Sean Potts.
The former midfielder had scans done on the knee and there was no joint left. It was bone on bone and Dr Austin O’Kennedy mused that Molloy’s left knee was one of the worst he’d ever seen.
“I thought I had top cover with my own insurance but it turned out it only covered me for something like €13,500 or €14,000,” Molloy said.
“I went ahead anyway and the date came up. It took a long time for the GAA to row in behind me and pay the outstanding amount. I even received solicitor’s letters from the Mater Private regarding payment. I knew the GAA would pay at some stage. The way I saw it at least they owed me that much.
“My own county board weren’t too interested in my welfare. They never bothered their ass to ask how I was or what I was doing. There was no word from anybody. I made a few phone calls, one to Brian McEniff, and he got on to the GAA Director General Paraic Duffy. Fair play to Paraic, he sorted it out for me and Croke Park did pay, but I shouldn’t have had to go through all that.”
Molloy joined the GPA in late 2009, but was left disillusioned by the experience.
He said: “The GAA have definitely fallen down in this area. Once you hang your boots up you are finished barring you go into reporting or something, like the media game, but that’s for some and it’s not for others. People say it’s your own choice, but if a man hadn’t won an All-Ireland…here I am, 48, can’t run anymore, that wasn’t the choice I made.”
Nor was it the choice Diarmuid Duggan made to go through the harship he’s had to and face the prospect of having a hip replacement.
The GAA might well be an amateur organisation, but it could do worse than explore how it can improve its treatment of players who fall into hard times due to injuries sustained in the combat of its games.
Victor a wanted man!
SHOULDER Charge was dozing off on Monday evening on the sofa when a headline from Sky Sports News caught the ear. “Manchester United are keen on Victor Fisher, it is being reported.”
Now there was a headline to grab the attention.
The rumour was quashed on Tuesday evening, however, when Stephen Doherty’s Letterkenny Rovers notes confirmed that United had been beaten in the race. The popular local Cllr was elected the new Vice Chairman of Letterkenny Rovers at the club’s AGM this week.
Shoulder Charge has heard that the United target was Ajax youngster, the Danish Viktor Fischer, but if you’re around Letterkenny tonight and get offered a lotto just check the crest to make sure it’s a Rovers one in case Sir Alex has our own Victor raising a few quid for the summer transfer warchest!