GAA Football

Bad career choices not exclusive to GAA players: Eoin O'Donoghue

Eoin O’Donoghue  is studying Business Analytics at NUI Galway. Picture by INPHO/Morgan Treacy

MAYO defender Eoin O’Donoghue says that making bad career choices is not exclusive to inter-county GAA players.

An ESRI study released yesterday revealed that one in four GAA inter-county players reported deliberately choosing a career path that would allow them to play for their county at the end of their second-level education.

The study, which drew responses from more than 1,000 players, revealed that 40 per cent of players said they would not choose the same career path again if they were given the choice now.

That figure rose above 50 per cent when it was boiled down to those who had made their career choice around playing GAA, while more than 80 per cent of players reported difficulty balancing the demands of studying and playing during third-level courses.

O’Donoghue, who is studying Business Analytics at NUI Galway, says that while football was a consideration for him, it wasn’t the primary one.

Speaking as an ambassador at the launch of the Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup, O’Donoghue believes that the idea of wanting to change career in your mid-20s is not just a GAA issue.

“For me personally, it’s not just football players or GAA players who experience this, but when you’re 18 or 19 and you’re choosing what you want to do for the rest of your life, it’s not just sports people who end up choosing the wrong career.

“I chose to do commerce as my undergrad – not for any reason to do with football or make it any easier, but more so because I wasn’t sure what line I wanted to go down.

“People say they regret making these decisions but it’s not just sports people. That’s an important point that’s often overlooked.

“You see your own friends who aren’t involved in sport and they’re going to college, doing a course and end up never doing anything to do with it. It’s not just sports people who end up making decisions they regret.”

The report also revealed that almost 90 per cent of GAA inter-county players are consuming supplements.

More than a quarter of them (26%) said that they were sourcing their supplements from the internet, while another 31.5 per cent said they were buying them from the shop themselves, with just a quarter sourcing directly from the team they’re involved with.

Only 23 per cent of players said that they had been tested for doping.

O’Donoghue is among the other 77 per cent who haven’t been and joked that he hoped to play enough championship football this summer for the testers to come looking for him.

He said that Mayo players are “definitely not left to their own devices” when it came to supplements and with team-mate Evan Regan this year taking over as the team’s nutritionist from Caroline Brosnan, O’Donoghue insists he would check before taking anything.

“Everything is monitored in Mayo. If I need a question answered, I would shoot Caroline when she was there, or Evan now, or the doctor, Sean Moffatt, a message and they’d be back straight away.

“The dietitians play a big role, and I’m not out trying to decide what supplements to take for myself. I never studied anything like that, I’m definitely listening to Evan and he’s serious at his job.”

59 per cent of those that responded to the ESRI study said that they were “very or somewhat satisfied with the information provided about anti-doping testing and compliance”.

O’Donoghue praised the GPA for their education programme around it when the GAA signed up to the anti-doping regulations, but says more can be done.

“The GPA put a lot of effort into it, they had a guy out speaking to us and told us what you can and can’t do. It’s definitely something could slip your head.

“There was a Sport Ireland app that used to be available, people are saying to use it, but it currently doesn’t work on iOS [iPhone operating system].

“That’s something that they maybe look at on the other side to make it easier for players to get this information off-hand. Definitely the nutritionist would be back to us straight away anyway.

“I’d never take anything, even a Lemsip, because I know it can be flagged up.”

O’Donoghue, whose NUI Galway face a tough opening round tie against Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup holders UCC, is currently living in Galway during term time.

It’s two hours from home in Belmullet but both are about an hour from Castlebar.

Travel time is one of the key pressures put on young inter-county players who are trying to juggle college and inter-county commitments at this stage of the year, but Mayo’s policy of allowing the Galway-based players to do their gym sessions away from Castlebar helps alleviate that.

O’Donoghue says it’s not a major issue for him but that the idea of moving the Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup - which has already been condensed into just a few weeks this year - forward to pre-Christmas wouldn’t solve anything if it was done in isolation.

“People are talking about moving Sigerson to before Christmas but that’s not going to work if other competitions aren’t changed too. One solution won’t fix everything, there’s a lot of changes have to be made for everything to run smoothly.

“[The key] is to get more games than there is training. Every player wants to be playing games. A six-day turnaround can be very difficult for teams but if you’re playing in a group competition, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be playing every weekend, or every second weekend anyway.

“There shouldn’t be any three, four, five-week breaks between games. Two weeks is enough if you’re preparing for a bigger game, and a week is generally ok otherwise. All players want to be playing games and not just training for one game a month.

“The current format that the league works on isn’t bad where you play two or three games and then you’ve a weekend off. It’s the same in Super 8s.

“It can be tough sometimes with injuries but inter-county squads have 30 men for a reason. It gives everyone an opportunity to play, and promoting playing games is important.”

O’Donoghue also says he is excited to see what “a mind like Ciaran McDonald’s” can bring to the Mayo setup this year.

The legendary former number 11 has signed up to join James Horan’s backroom team and has already dipped his hand into a few of the pre-season training sessions.

A man who famously said he never went to the gym and relied on his work as a plumber to keep him in trim, McDonald’s influence is something O’Donoghue hopes to see reflected in Mayo’s performances in 2020.

“He’s been in two or three sessions. It’s exciting from a players’ point of view to have someone of that stature involved, and other new boys coming into that squad and a few boys that have been there before.

“It freshens everything up. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he brings to the group, a mind like that with the ability he had.

“He’s taken a few different drills in training and you can see the idea he has in terms of how the game should be played. It’s really interesting and should hopefully bring benefits to our game come the summer.”

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