Meath's Cillian O'Sullivan Has A Refreshing Approach To The Problems Assailing Gaelic Football
Following a long winter of introspection in Gaelic football, focusing largely on the elitist, win-at-all-costs mentality that has invaded the sport, breeding negative, cautious football and an imbalanced lifestyle for the players at the top.
Amid all of this, Meath's Cillian O'Sullivan is a refreshing change. Having missed a large chunk of football with a back injury, O'Sullivan was given added reason to consider life after the game, and recently completed a masters' in Psychology, specialising in organisational and performance psychology.
Ahead of this weekend's Allianz league game with Cavan, O'Sullivan spoke to The So-Called Weaker Podcast about the importance of not letting one's identity become too wrapped up in sport.
You can listen to the podcast in full by subscribing on iTunes or by searching 'Balls.ie' wherever you get your podcasts.
Ask any of the rugby or soccer guys - none of them will be idle off the pitch. They'll be developing themselves, be it by getting a degree and wondering what their career will be after they've finished.
The problem with GAA, a lot of people get their identity caught up in it, and when that's suddenly taken away from you, you have nothing left. It's important to have a different persona off the pitch, because it's dangerous to have all your eggs in one basket.
When that finishes up, I need something else to invest my passion in.
You can't afford to rely on the GAA to get you through. You don't want to look back when you retire from the GAA with bitterness, saying that you'd given all of your time to it. I don't want to look back on my career and think that the GAA took all of this away from me.
O'Sullivan has resisted the urge to apply too much of his study to the team environment in Meath, but he says it has helped his own mental preparation for games. Interestingly, it has helped less with the stark matters of winning and losing than it has in a more holistic way.
When you're so deeply involved with it, you don't want to interfere too much. It definitely helps in terms of my own mental preparation ahead of games, and remembering why I play the game.
I'm not just going out there and seeing in terms of winning or losing, but it's about improving myself. Am I a better player than I was last week? In the GAA at the moment, the younger players are caught up in winning or losing, and that's what's being preached to them. But that's totally wrong, they should be focused on skill mastery, participation and growing connections and friendships with the players they are involvement.
But the elitism of GAA is taking over at underage level, where managers are coming in with GPS systems at a level where it's just not needed.
It's taking away from why people played sport in the first place.
You can listen to the interview in full on the podcast.