Domestic soccer gets a bad press from public, reveals Philly McMahon
AN elite Gaelic footballer knows exactly what's required to reach the summit.
A domestic Irish soccer player knows what it takes to make the Airtricity League cut.
Philly McMahon has a unique insight into both codes, and he reckons that League of Ireland players are maligned by an unfair public perception - and even more susceptible to burnout than their GAA counterparts.
Dublin's two-time All-Ireland winner previously worked for two years with Shamrock Rovers as a strength and conditioning coach, after being brought on board by then-manager Trevor Croly in November 2012.
"All I wanted to do was go in and show a different level of professionalism and it's not how much you get paid, it's how hard you work," he recalls.
"That was one of the main reasons he (Croly) brought me in - because he realised I was playing a sport that's amateur-based. And the first thing he said was, 'What is professionalism? Does it mean that you're getting paid or does it mean that you're working hard?' Because if you put the Dublin team and the Shamrock Rovers team out and you train them side by side, who would you say gets paid?"
McMahon, surely, is best placed to measure how League of Ireland players compare.
"Do you know what, they don't get enough credit," he says. "They actually work hard, they do. The problem is, the spectators are always looking at England; they're always looking at Barcelona; and the standards are up through the roof. These are professional footballers and they're the best of professional footballers.
"The Airtricity League (players) are not that standard. It's hard to look in and go, 'Well they mustn't train right because that match wasn't great'.
"The facts are, when you're training and you're looking at these little things that they're doing and they come out on the pitch and you go, 'Well, that was what they were working on, that's very good'.
"Nine times out of ten the spectator wouldn't see that." McMahon's Rovers role made for an unusual All-Ireland final build-up in 2013, when he spent the night before at Tallaght Stadium where the Hoops defeated Drogheda United to capture the EA Sports Cup.
"It was brilliant," he recounts. "We actually won three out of five tournaments that year and it was deemed a bad year - crazy. We won about 60-odd games in eight or nine months.
"The mental loading for players, it's crazy.
"All I was doing was recovery sessions and staying on top of injuries and stuff like that. It was mental but the league is ridiculous in terms of the loading.
"You talk about GAA and player burnout; you look at soccer and you'll see a different story there.
"We got to all the cup finals bar one of them - the FAI Cup, we got to the semi-final of that - so we played all those games and then we played all our league games ... you have players picking up injuries left, right and centre."