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'Training Is A Full-Time Job' - Why GAA Players Are Flocking To Teaching Careers

'Training Is A Full-Time Job' - Why GAA Players Are Flocking To Teaching Careers
By PJ Browne
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As time demands on inter-county players grow, a curious trend is beginning to develop: players are making life choices based on how it will affect their football and hurling careers.

When it comes to choosing a third level course or job, how much time it will allow them dedicate to training can be a major factor as the lines between amateur and professional sport become ever more blurred. Players are looking towards professions which will allow them maximise their potential.

Earlier this week, Waterford hurler Jamie Barron, who has just finished a Masters in Food Business at UCC, revealed that he is considering a move into teaching - the hours and summers off are undoubtedly suited to the life of an inter-county player. Barron added that once his hurling career is done, he may then move away from teaching.

Speaking at the launch of the Allianz Football League on Tuesday, Galway footballer Damien Comer said that he had similar reasons for choosing his current third level course: a Masters in Education at NUIG.

Comer had considered other options, such as physiotherapy but grew cold to that choice.

I had a few options: I was on the verge of doing physiotherapy, the guards or teaching. I probably did pick teaching because you have the summers off, nine to four job, it is very suitable to football. You have to look past football as well, you can't base it completely off football.

I was going to do physiotherapy but I was talking to a few people and when you're doing football it's very hard to do physio because at times you could be with teams, you could be at practice during the day and then with teams in the evening, so you can't reach your full potential. It was an extra two years in Dublin and wouldn't have been completely suitable.

Probably, football leaned me towards teaching and that's where I'm at. I'm happy out doing it at the moment, I'm really enjoying it.

During time off from college, while he contemplated his options, Comer spent 18 months working with his father, a plumber. The experience led him to believe the life of a tradesman no longer meshes with the demands put on an inter-county player.

"Just going training in the evening, you'd be wrecked tired. You're climbing up ladders or you might be on the kango for the day," said the 24-year-old.


"It's not sustainable nowadays because training is a full-time job. If you go from that sort of atmosphere into training, compared to someone sitting at an office desk all day, they're at an advantage already because they haven't used energy throughout the day.

"The last one is probably is my own clubman, Niall Coleman, who used to play with Galway. I'd say he was one of the last ones who did it. He used to go to the gym in the morning before doing a day's work and then training in the evening, it's a serious commitment.


"I think that day is gone. There's a shortage of builders out there but I can't see any GAA players picking it up anytime soon!


Kildare manager Cian O'Neill, who was also in attendance on Tuesday, is doubtful about the prevalence of players making such choices.

If someone said, 'I'd like to embark in a career in teaching because I have the summer off,' I would say, 'What a brilliant profession to be in, teaching.'

Whether you are a footballer or a tennis player or you just like to read. I wouldn't say that's a bad career choice if you're an educator.

I think there's always been a high prevalence of teachers in sport. Maybe some of it has to do with the ten years playing inter-county and they have the summer off, maybe it's got something to do with the 40 years after that where they still have the summer off and they're not footballers.

O'Neill does believe it would be worrying if players were embarking on career paths based on short-term gain for their football or hurling careers.

"You never know what is around the corner. I'd hate to see a player change into a career that he's not happy with and then, God forbid, he has a bad knee injury or he has back problems and then all of a sudden football is gone or hurling is gone and so is his job satisfaction.


"I think that you need to be considered before you make those decisions.

One thing of which O'Neill is certain: the benefit of a flexible employer for inter-county players. It's an aspect of a job from which he personally benefits. Along with being Kildare manager, he is also head of the Department of Sport, Leisure, & Childhood Studies at CIT.

It definitely helps. It quite demanding being an elite athlete and I say an elite athlete, not just an inter-county footballer. I have friends who aren't even at national standard but who are triathletes who train 12 times a week. That's more than twice as many times as my athletes train.

In our game, the big thing is it's a team game. You have set training times, you don't have the flexibility of maybe individual sports. Obviously, you have the demands of travelling to matches, that type of thing.

It is demanding and I think having a job or a boss even within a job who definitely is supportive of what you do definitely helps. No more than myself in management. I'm very fortunate that my colleagues in CIT support what we do. My background is in sport anyway, so they get it as much as I get it and that's a help, you know.

Kerry selector Mickey Sheehy does not buy into the idea that demands on players are becoming unsustainable.

"Nowadays it’s a fact of life, people like to stay fit. If they weren’t playing football they’d be still going to their gym and looking for their six-packs," says the eight-time All-Ireland winner.

"I’m only speaking now from a Kerry point of view. I think the players are enjoying it, they are well looked after and if they don’t like it they can walk away. Nobody is holding a gun to their head to get them to play. I think it’s overstated a little bit.

"I think most employers are flexible because if you have a high-profile player and he working with a company and he gets an old bit of [publicity] with the company you know it works both ways really.

In attendance at the 2018 Allianz Football League Launch at Dublin Port Authority in Dublin, from left, Kerry selector Mikey Sheehy, Patrick McBrearty of Donegal, Damien Comer of Galway and Kildare manager Cian O'Neill. Dublin face Kildare under lights in Croke Park in the opening round on January 27th at 7pm, while Allianz Football League Division 1 holders Kerry host Donegal at Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney on Sunday January 28th and Galway take on Tyrone at Pearse Stadium in Galway. For more, see: www.gaa.ie Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

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