Report: Inter-county life not so bad after all
"Sometimes in the GAA," observed Eamon O'Shea in Croke Park yesterday, "opinion trumps fact."
The former Tipperary manager meant his words in the broad, general sense of everyone in the Association having a view on what which way the wind should be blowing in the GAA.
But it was difficult not to think of Joe Brolly's 'indentured slaves' barb at the publication of the ESRI report: 'Playing Senior Inter-County Gaelic Games: Experiences, Realities and Consequences'.
Here we had what was presented as "empirical evidence", by GPA Chairman Seamus Hickey that inter-county players still largely enjoy playing football and hurling at the uppermost level.
The report, commissioned by the GAA and the GPA and presented in fine detail by Elish Kelly, Senior Research Officer with the ESRI, took in the views of some 1,900 players or the 54pc of the GAA inter-county players in 2016 who responded.
It found that some spent up to 31 hours per week on their inter-county commitments between training, travel and preparation but found no drop in the national average in the amount of time inter-county players spent working.
During the Championship months - May to September - players devoted an average of 6.1 hours per day to their sporting activities.
Therefore, the percentage of their time devoted to family or friends and other interests was being squashed while players were also found to be compromising on the number of hours sleep they were getting each night, leading to lack of recovery and injury.
Some 40pc of respondents reported having no 'off-season' from GAA activity in 2016 and of those that did have a break, the average duration was under four weeks.
Interestingly, roughly 600 of the 1,900 players surveyed did not play inter-county in 2017, although the reasons for this were varied.
Almost 48pc of those who ceased playing at the top level at the end of the 2016 said they did so to focus on their professional careers, 24pc cited injury, 22pc were simply not selected for the 2017 while another 22pc opted out because they envisaged little chance of success.
Presented as "evidence for policy", Hickey said he the findings would strengthen the GPA's hand when they engage Croke Park in the next round of negotiations for funding.