Moran worried about pressures placed on 'working' players

Moran worried about pressures placed on 'working' players
Niall Moran

Limerick ace Niall Moran says there is a degree of concern about how demanding and 'ultra professional' inter-county hurling has now become.

Most of the game's top stars have little time away from the gym, training pitch or workplace as they chase Championship glory in a sport that may be amateur on the surface, but the attitude is very much professional beneath it all.

Players have to give huge commitment at inter-county level from winter through to late summer and beyond, often missing family occasions and important events in favour of training, challenge matches and league and Championship games.

Moran has been soldiering with Limerick since 2003 and his job as a secondary school teacher at Ardscoil Rís affords him enough time to fully commit to hurling at the highest grade, including a timely summer break.

The emergence of Limerick as Munster SHC champions this summer, with a collection of younger players coming to the fore, shows that the phrase, 'It's a young man's game', is quite apt.

Indeed, when Limerick met Kilkenny in last year's All-Ireland Championship there were only three survivors in the Shannonsiders' starting line-up from the counties' most recent SHC clash back in 2007.

That player turnover is to be expected in such tough economic times, as family life and work have to take precedence when players get older and Moran, now 30, feels that certain occupations are being squeezed out of the hurling landscape.

"I don't think it (the commitment) has gone too far. You can never go too far in the pursuit of excellence and the pursuit of trophies," said the Castleconnell man, speaking at the launch of the GAA's Freestyle Hurling initiative - www.gaa.ie/freestylehurling - at Croke Park.

"I just wonder from a lifestyle point of view, where is the gap for people to live? Training has become a 12-month-around experience and I feel that you are losing some of the old folklore that used to go with it.

"Professions - is there a role for the block-layer in hurling any more, the farmer? Are guys going to have to make their lifestyle choices around it? Are they going to have to have jobs where they have three months off in the summer to fully focus? It's an area of concern.

"Where does the next advantage come in? Does it come in the use of supplements, guys giving up their jobs? I wonder where the next competitive advantage comes.

"Look at rugby and games like that constantly evolving, it doesn't always mean the lustre of the game improves.

"Look at the four (All-Ireland hurling) semi-finalists this year as an example and look at the age profile. Most guys are going straight from colleges hurling and minor hurling to senior hurling. The guy with the couple of kids, the guy in his 30s, are they being squeezed out by this uber professionalism?

"You'll have lads who have made lifestyle choices that allow them to extend their career. It's an area we have to see how it evolves, but it is an area of concern for an amateur organisation."

Moran does not envisage the GAA going down the professionalism route as it 'isn't sustainable in the GAA in such a small environment'. Instead, he would like to see organisations come on board 'that are going to come in as support in terms of providing suitable employment for these guys'.

John Allen's men are in the midst of preparing for their All-Ireland semi-final showdown with Clare on Sunday, August 18. Kevin Downes (toe), Sean Tobin (foot) and Shane Dowling (shoulder) are their main injury concerns ahead of the game.

Moran added: "There are a few lads carrying small knocks. A game like an All-Ireland semi-final, media and fans like to latch on to a story. We feel all the injuries would be well cleared up by August 18."

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