Players must realise they are just a 'resource' for county - Ger admits
INTER-COUNTY footballers are only a "resource" and there will come the inevitable day when a manager decides you have passed your sell-by-date. Ger Brennan knows what awaits but he's not complaining, merely stating reality.
Harking back to the aftermath of Dublin's spectacular collapse to Kerry in 2009, the 28-year-old centre-back recalls: "There was a clean-out of several players, and whether some people agreed with it or disagreed with it, that kind of had to happen.
"In sport, I would have learned quite quickly you're only a resource ultimately and as soon as you're used up, the next person has to come in. That's just the nature of it and that's something you buy into as a player. You can't take it personally. But after 2009 there was a massive clear-out."
This is not unique to Dublin, however. The ever-growing demands on this "resource" mean that 10- or 12-year inter-county careers are now viewed as exceptional.
"The intensity, the workload, everything that's involved with senior inter-county football and hurling has really come on over the last 10-15 years. We're professional in every way bar receiving payments," Brennan points out.
"It has changed since I've started. The depth of analysis, the focus on athletic development and so on has really grown.
"I would have begun playing under Pillar (Caffrey) and there was certainly weights and analysis, but it's just come up a couple of notches now since – you might say from an ordinary level to a higher level course. I don't know where it goes from here. I don't think it can go anywhere further from here."
Being part of a successful county team means there is even less 'down time' for Brennan, who reflects: "Depending on where you are in your career, there are times when you have mental lows and that's quite natural, I think, in any employment or any sport. But in my position I'm fortunate to be playing a lot of the time, which keeps you going.
"When I started off, in my apprenticeship really with Pillar, when you were training as hard as everyone else and not necessarily getting the game-time, that was tough. So I appreciate how players might feel at both ends of the spectrum."
The flip side to all the sacrifice is the 'buzz' of being a Dublin footballer.
"I think it comes down to your mindset. If you're positive, if you're really enjoying it, it's not a sacrifice at all. It's something that gives meaning to your life," the school teacher says.
"If you're not enjoying it, well then it becomes a sacrifice and that's when you (think) 'Do I need a break from this? Do I need to step back?'
"But at present I'm certainly enjoying it. It's not a sacrifice at all. It's challenging to manage your personal life and your work life and your college life. But you kind of grow up with it from school, playing school sports and studying – you really haven't known any different."