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Monday 5 December 2016

Curve Ball: Gaelic 24/7 ... the pros and the cons

Darran O'Sullivan
Darran O'Sullivan

HERE we are, in the age of economic recovery, the dole queues shrinking, Ireland going back to work (there endeth our paid-for political broadcast on behalf of the Establishment) ... and our Gaelic icons are packing in their careers.

In their droves!

Or more like in their trickles, but who wants to ruin a good intro?

Maybe it's the time of year - the dawn of summer - that has lots of Gaels in reflective mode, contemplating where they are going with their careers, sporting or otherwise. Or maybe it's simply due to the recent glut of championship launches where more and more stars were asked the same question.

The picture emerging, though, is of a Gaelic Games elite trying to wring every last ounce of inspiration from their bodies before they get too old/battered and are no longer able to pass their inter-county NCT.

And if that means putting their actual careers on hold ... well, they're the sacrifices you've got to make.

Kerry's Darran O'Sullivan (inset) was surely not the first, but he's been identified as starting this trend.

HEADLINES

Following a media interview in January, there followed a raft of headlines about O'Sullivan quitting his bank career to concentrate on recovering from a hip injury ... after which he sought to clarify his position via Twitter.

"I left the bank to work as an athlete mentor, as it was a job I wanted to do and it would give me a more flexible timetable that would allow me to rehab my injury properly," he explained.

"I'm definitely not going to be a professional GAA player ... I don't think I'd survive on travel expenses!"

Last month Donegal's Karl Lacey revealed that he was parking his working career for the duration of Donegal's SFC campaign.

Having completed his UL studies towards a Masters, Lacey would live the life of a professional "without getting paid" He would keep his eye on jobs but, if one came up in Dublin this summer, he wouldn't apply.

EXCITED

This week we had another back page story of a Kerry icon - Kieran Donaghy - reportedly following the same path of prioritising football over career. Donaghy subsequently tweeted that while he was leaving Ulster Bank, contrary to reports he was already "looking for new opportunities in employment and excited for what the future holds."

Whatever about the above case studies, it's fair to surmise that many other players are making career decisions to facilitate their football or hurling, rather than the other way around.

That may simply involve staying in third-level until their mid to late-20s - or going back to college. It may entail choosing careers (teaching, for example) that afford plentiful time off at the most opportune time - ie, the summer.

Then, of course, you have a minority of stars who might even opt out of work for a period to live the life of a full-time (unpaid) pro.

Their commitment is to be lauded. But here's the thing: you can see why a Kerry or Donegal player might do so for a short time. But if you're from Carlow or Leitrim, with zero All-Ireland opportunity and negligible PR appeal that certain companies might covet, why would you even bother?

Even at the 'unpaid pro' level, this is a game for elites.

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