GAA Football

Players losing perspective on bigger picture: Sean Cavanagh

Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh says that the GAA and GPA must do more to educate inter-county players on their decisions around their working lives. Picture by Colm O'Reilly

SEAN Cavanagh fears that inter-county players have “lost perspective on the bigger picture” in terms of decision making on their working lives.

While he admits that in accountancy, he is fortunate to have chosen a career that has allowed him to play inter-county football, the Tyrone skipper feels that players are too often basing their work choices around playing football.

Waterford hurling manager Derek McGrath recently took a sabbatical from his teaching job to concentrate on managing the county and revealed that he has 14 teachers on his panel.

The number of inter-county players going down that path appears to be growing on an annual basis.

Cavanagh senses that a portion of them are choosing their career solely to enable them to continue playing for their county, and says that the GAA and GPA must makes moves to address it.

“That’s a massive thing in Gaelic football, players foregoing careers. I’m seeing it in the past few years becoming a huge trend.

“The biggest example is the amount of inter-county footballers that are teachers now. Everybody likes the idea of having the summer off and having a few hours free in the evening.

“Subconsciously, and even consciously, a lot of players are going down that route, and not necessarily because it’s the best for their chosen path in life or what they love doing.

“It’s because it’s the easiest road of resistance in terms of being an inter-county footballer.

“That, to me, is wrong and it’s something the GAA has to look at.

“I don’t know whether the GAA fixes it or the GPA gets involved or whatever, but I think players need to be educated.

“Most people train in their profession between the age of 18 and 25, and they really have to look beyond their inter-county career before they choose where they want to go.”

The increased demands on players has rapidly reduced the scope for players to come outside of a few chosen 9-5 professions, with the number of tradesmen involved in top level GAA seemingly at an all-time low.

Cavanagh says that he has encountered players that work shorter weeks to enable recovery time after training sessions, and the three-time All-Ireland winner feels players need to be more mindful of their future beyond the game.

“Every player loves the idea of being able to train at the top and train professionally, and it’s a dog-eat-dog world in that respect.

“But perspective and the bigger picture has to come into play somewhere along the line.

“I’d fear that some players have lost that perspective.

“I’ve seen players who are considering job-sharing because they like the idea of having a Wednesday and a Friday off to recover from a Tuesday and Thursday training.

“To me, that’s a ridiculously foreign concept. I’ve been in a sedentary job that allows me to work that balance, I’m office based or on the road and then training at night, but people shouldn’t have to forego gaining the kind of career in the profession they should for the love of Gaelic football.

“They’re going to do it naturally, the sacrifices that county players make whether they’re from Tyrone or they’re from Carlow or wherever, are quite similar.

“But we have to remember it’s an amateur sport and that everyone has a life to lead afterwards.

“When you’re in the bubble of inter-county football, nothing else really matters.

“Your career, your family, your friends are kicked to the kerb, and you’re just waiting on the text when you’re training next.

“We all love it, but at the same time you need to keep that bit of perspective that there’s life outside football.”

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