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Rugby League: GPA STRIKES LIQUID GOLD.

Byline: ORLA BANNON

THE GPA was celebrating yesterday with the announcement of a lucrative deal with soft drinks company Cantrell & Cochrane which could earn the rebel players' group millions.

The 10-year agreement, the longest and biggest deal the GPA has ever struck, will net them at least EUR500,000 in the first three years.

The cash windfall should now pave the way for more lucrative endorsements as the GPA seeks to establish itself as the one true voice for GAA players.

GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell hinted at the launch of sports drink Club Energise in the C & C suite at Croke Park that another high-profile deal is in the pipeline and could be announced within the next six to eight weeks.

And commercial director Donal O'Neill confidently declared the attractive agreement with the Irish firm means the GPA will be around for a very long time.

"This deal will allow us to establish long-term stablility which wasn't there before so this means the GPA is here to stay," he said.

The GAA and GPA were left unimpressed by bookmakers Paddy Power's ambush marketing campaign last week and it seemed like there had been a brief alliance between the warring factions.

Neither GAA President Sean Kelly or director-general Liam Mulvihill took up their invitations to yesterday's launch but Farrell insisted they had no problem with the announcement.

"There is no real significance that we had the launch here - where else would you have it as it's the home of gaelic games and the prominent players in the country," he said. Croke Park are aware it's here and have been supportive of it.

"We might have spats over various issues now and then but in general we sing off the same hymn sheet.

"There has been a dramatic change in mindset towards player welfare and provisions for players have been greatly enhanced."

The GPA will receive six per cent net revenue from every bottle of Club Energise that is sold and C & C Ireland's marketing director Michael McArdle claimed that would earn the GPA at least half a million euros in the next three years.

Ten high-profile inter-county footballers and hurlers will be used to push the new product in phase one of the marketing campaign and they will be used within their own counties.

Jason Sherlock, Setanta O hAilpin, DJ Carey, Seamus Moynihan, Peter Canavan, Tommy Dunne, Paul McGrane, Muiris Gavin, Sean Og de Paor and Conal Keaney will feature on billboards earning them EUR2,250 each over the next six to eight weeks.

CAPTION(S):

DEAL: Kieran McGeeney and Jason Sherlock; FARRELL: Delighted
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 20, 2003
Words:434
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