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Wednesday 22 January 2020

Stress of GAA's top jobs must be tackled - Christie

The workload on inter-county magagers must be addressed says former Dublin player Paddy

Jim Gavin juggled the demands of his career and managing Dublin with great success
Jim Gavin juggled the demands of his career and managing Dublin with great success

The GAA world was left stunned when Jim Gavin announced his departure as Dublin boss last Saturday afternoon but it didn't come as any surprise to Paddy Christie, having seen the enormous hours involved and the stress surrounding inter-county management.

The former Dublin defender marvels at Gavin's ability to "run the whole show and coordinate everything" as he guided the Dubs to six All-Ireland SFC titles during his seven-year reign, amazingly losing just one championship game during that period.

Given his involvement with DCU's Sigerson Cup side, Christie had many dealings with Gavin in recent years and highlighted the "anti-social" hours which he would regularly contact him at due to the demands of the job.

"We'd be in conversation a couple of times and it was always at quite anti-social times when you'd be talking to him on the phone. I'd assume that was because they were the only times that he had," DCU boss Christie said at yesterday's draw for the Electric Ireland Higher Education championships.

"They weren't early, I won't say how late they were. I think John Costello is in the same boat, the CEO of the county board. He does strange hours and he sends emails at strange hours.

Problem

"Emails you'll get away with because no one has to answer them but phone calls are a different kettle of fish. It's lovely to see the game developing and counties developing and players developing.

"It's lovely to see all that happening but I don't know how it's going to be reconciled with an amateur game, that's the problem. That's going to be a problem in years to come."

With the requirements on inter-county players increasing every season - the latest ERSI report reckoned that up to 31 hours per week is spent on senior county commitments by players - Christie is of the opinion that the stress on managers is reaching breaking point.

The Ballymun Kickhams clubman worries that inter-county management is becoming unsustainable and he feels that the GAA need to act before it is too late, with the offer of career breaks to those involved mooted as a possible solution in future years.

"It's a very dangerous question but I don't know how people can keep on doing this, the amount of effort involved. There's so many different aspects to the whole preparation and somebody has to coordinate all of them," the former All-Star said.

"That person has a lot on their plate, it's a full-time job. It's just too much work, the workload is enormous. It's getting to the point where it will have to be cut back or they'll have to make a big decision, the GAA, on where managers are going.

"It's grand saying 'if you're a principal of a school that you can take a few phone calls and things like that' but it doesn't work like that, schools are busy places.

"And no matter what profession you're in, I don't know if any profession really wants someone to be a ghost of a person or someone who's half there.

"I don't think any organisation would want anyone high up to be involved in or having a semi-involvement, they'd want somebody that's committed and I think anyone that's involved with the GAA at inter-county management level, they can't master the art of bi-location so it's a difficult job.

Breaks

"Ultimately, I think the GAA will have to have a long hard look at things and maybe look at the likes of people taking career breaks and that, stress-wise I can only imagine what some of these fellas are going through."

As regards Gavin's successor, Christie reckons that his former team-mate Dessie Farrell "has to be top of the pick because of what he's done" as an All-Ireland-winning manager at minor and U-21 with many of the current senior stars coming up through the ranks under his tutelage.

Christie - who will play no part in the new Dublin set-up as he is involved as coach with the Tipperary footballers under David Power for 2020 - insists that the man to lead the Dubs forward will have to be willing to drop everything to do the job properly, and he doesn't envy the stress that comes with the high-profile position.

"You have to be prepared to put your whole life on hold and whether it's Dessie or Pat Gilroy or Declan Darcy or any of these guys who are prepared to do that, can these guys justify taking two or three years out of their life?

"You're going to be successful or close to being successful, it means you're looking at going into the end of November until the end of August, that's what you're looking at every time so it's a big commitment."

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