GAA

The Secret To Dublin's Success: It's Just Great Craic

The Secret To Dublin's Success: It's Just Great Craic

"Your head would be melted," said Paddy O'Rourke regarding the demands of inter-county GAA. No longer under the blaze of the Meath senior panel, O'Rourke disclosed his reasons for departing the group in a column for AIB GAA which has since been removed from their website.

O'Rourke's beliefs are indicative of a smoldering inferno in the inter-county game. Though not all feel as discontented as the former Meath keeper, the use of the term "full-time job" is increasing - more smoke from the fire.

"Every manager is trying to raise the bar and trying to be Dublin," Sean Cavanagh told Balls back in late January.

"The answer always seems to be, 'Put in more hours. Put in more hours'.

"I would love someone to jot out how many hours are spent by our inter-county players and compare that with a Man Utd or a Munster Rugby because I suspect that the GAA guys are putting every bit as much of their time as well as working 35 - 40 hour weeks and that can't be right."

As voices crack trying to reach the pitch of Dublin, there's a harmony to the song from Jim Gavin's group. In contrast to many other panels, they're having fun.

"We're having a good time," Jack McCaffrey told Balls last month.

Advertisement

"We're riding the crest of a wave and everyone is enjoying things so much it'd be a shame to look back and say, 'We didn't work hard to keep that going'. I think the enjoyment that everyone in the group is getting out of it is the main driver in my eyes."

"It's crazy," remarked the 24-year-old when asked if how much the fun element inter-county football gets lost in the conversation.

You’re a kid kicking around in the nursery in Clontarf, in your head you’re running around Croke Park, it’s literally a dream come true for most lads there.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that it’s a massive commitment but you wouldn’t do it if you weren’t enjoying it. The craic you have and the enjoyment of it all most definitely outweighs the negatives.

Even the negatives, if you weren’t playing football, you’d like to think that you’d be keeping yourself in somewhat decent shape - you’d probably be going for a run or the gym three or four times a week anyway. Everyone on the team is that type of personality that likes exercise.

"It’s all part of a balanced lifestyle and I think it’s definitely overstated, the negatives of it.

"I leave the house looking forward to going to training. You arrive, you have the craic with everyone. You go out and you train, you come back in and you’re home in bed. It’s not a chore.

"In the depths of January when you’re running up and down a mucky pitch, you can question your life choices but it’s something everyone does because it’s fun or most people do because it’s fun. I think people do lose sight of that a little bit."

Advertisement

Of course, Dublin have luxuries that many other teams do not. While McCaffrey is at home in bed, other inter-county players might still be on the road home.

Members of the Dublin panel are pretty much all based in the capital. Not all inter-county players are stationed in their home county. Miles spent on the road for training are always going to be less for the Dubs than the majority of others.

Being stuck in a car is not the ideal scenario for post-training recovery. Just ask Andy Moran. Getting out of his job as a sales rep and the hours of driving it entailed turned him from someone dogged by injuries to last year's Footballer of the Year.

Dublin's depth also undoubtedly helps. The season after winning his second All-Ireland medal and also being named 2015 Footballer of the Year, McCaffrey took the summer off. A medical student in UCD, he admirably spent the championship months working with GOAL in Africa.

While McCaffrey was away, Dublin kept winning. They unearthed Brian Fenton, a Footballer of the Year nominee, and beat Mayo in the race for Sam. The blue wave continued to rise in the half-back's absence, and it has shown no signs of breaking since.

Dublin players also speak of having a balance to their lives - a fundamental on which Jim Gavin insists.

Advertisement

"The professional side always comes first," said McCaffrey.

"Well, in our camp anyway, for everybody. That's one of Jim's core tenets: you look after the things that are going to look after you after football. Your profession is your profession. That is my priority anyway.

"Genuinely, if lads were worried that you were putting too much into it and everything else in your life was drifting, it would be said to you - ‘Is everything going well in work?’ or ‘How are your relationships? Are you seeing enough of them?’ - all this kind of stuff. It kind of stems from that.

"For myself, medicine does take up a good bit of time, at the minute there’s a bit of downtime but everyone has something outside it. I don't think that there are many lads on the team who are just footballers, everyone has a couple of balls in the air.

"I think it’s really healthy. It allows you to focus on your football. When you’re in that football zone, you’re in the zone 100 percent in the knowledge that you can turn off in an hour and go do you other stuff as opposed to just 24/7 football, football, football. It’s just not sustainable, in my experience anyway."

See Also: 'Up All Night Putting In Epidurals' - The Life Of A Football Playing Doctor

PJ Browne
Article written by

You may also like