Tuesday 22 January 2019

A more mature attitude to drink will be a benefit everyone

Joe Canning
Joe Canning

Like a lot of former inter-county players, Joe Canning's interview in which he discussed the drink culture in GAA struck a chord with me.

That long abstinence/quick binge model is completely outdated now and Joe's right that a more mature relationship with alcohol would be beneficial to everyone.

When I started playing for Dublin in 2002, you could be off drink for three or four months and then let off the leash on the Sunday night after a match, reconvene early enough on a Monday afternoon and occasionally, keep her lit until Tuesday as well.

Usually we'd move away from the buzz of the city to somewhere quiet.

The Strawberry Hall was always a favourite. A secluded spot to sup away the free hours on a summer Monday afternoon.


I know it was thrown at us at the back end of the last decade that we socialised a bit too much after games and when you don't win an All-Ireland, people start pointing to that as one of the reasons.

Every year in the noughties after we failed to land the big one again, I'd look back and try figure out where it went wrong.

Did we train enough? Did we over-train? Were we tactically right?

Always in this list I'd include: did we overdo the nights out? Could we have gained a crucial inch by giving those Mondays a miss?

But reading Tomás Ó Sé's column on the same subject last week, it struck me that Kerry had identical habits to us during that time and you couldn't exactly say it held them back.

Those Monday and Tuesday sessions have disappeared now but it's not by order of management. It's just a cultural thing.

With the access players have to sports science and the knowledge they possess of what alcohol does to you in terms of your recovery, they're a lot better educated than we were ten years ago.

Mostly, players nowadays are trying to get back onto the pitch as quickly as they can after a match and alcohol doesn't help that.

I'm not sure I'd swap the nights out we had after those matches either, though.

They were times when lads really got to know each other. You sat down together and had a chat and learned what a fella was like away from football.

We had laughs there that kept us going through the drudgery of a hard, physical training session.

Times are different now, though. Lads have different ways of getting to know each other and it's vital that they do.

You spend so much time as a group and rely on each other so much in a team, you need some sort of link established away from the training pitch.

Jim Gavin is very aware of that, which is why there has never been a strict drinking ban under his management.

Mostly, Pat Gilroy was the same.

A few weeks before we played Mayo in the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final, Pat took us on a training weekend to Dingle. Kerry were knocked out of the Championship early that year so it was a nice change of scenery.

It was within a couple of weeks of the match so we weren't expecting to be let out but on the last night Pat said we could have a couple of drinks as a group.

So off we went to Paidí Ó Sé's, expecting a quiet evening and a couple of relaxing pints .

We landed in to be greeted by most of West Kerry. The place was hopping! Paidí made sure that everyone in the area knew the Dubs were on their way.

We stayed an hour or two chatting to locals, hopped on the bus and back to the sanctity of our hotel.

It was only a little thing, but it's a fond memory for me and it would be shame if the next generation didn't share those kind of experiences.

As for Sunday, all the aces all seemed to be in the Kerry pack but we're looking at Mayo completely differently now after what they did to Roscommon. Kerry still have the better, more in-form forwards and much greater variety in attack while Mayo are struggling in their full-back line, although it was hard not to be impressed with what they did to Roscommon.

The intent they showed. The aggression of their backs. How they ran straight down Roscommon's throats.

It looked more like the Mayo team we know

Mayo are humming again and Kerry are relatively untested so it's a tricky one but I'm siding with Kerry


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