Burnout warning for young players

Former Cork footballer Diarmuid Duggan, the player out of pocket by almost €7,000 due to medical costs, warned young GAA stars about the potential burnout problems they face by playing for too many teams whileeligible for the minor and U21 ranks.

Damian Griffin, the world-renowned hip surgeon based in Coventry in England, who operated on Duggan in February 2010, diagnosed the Ilen Rovers players injury as being a result of years oftraining at inter-county senior football level.

Duggan enjoyed an extensive underage football career with Cork, playing minor in 1997 and 1998, U21 in 2000 and 2001 and won an All-Ireland junior medal with Cork in 2001 while also featuring for Mary Immaculate College in the Sigerson Cup.

“I think there’s definitely an overload on players from the ages of 17 to 22,” he said.

“They’re trying to juggle and go from team to team. When you love playing, you don’t want to refuse anyone.

“You probably don’t have enough experience to handle a situation like that. In hindsight I was being pulled by too many teams.

“But like any young player, I loved playing and it’s hard to say no. When you’re 22 or 23, you’re able to stand up for yourself and say, ‘I can’t train here’. But as young lads, you end up going along with what you’re told.

“When I was young, I played a ferocious amount of games.

“I played at all levels for the club and as we were junior, I played senior for the Carbery divisional team as well. Then I played for Cork at minor, U21, junior and senior.

“We were Sigerson at the time as well in Mary Immaculate. We’d a very good team at the time with Tomás Ó Sé, [Dara] Ó Cinnéide, [Jason] Stokes from Limerick, Stephen Lavin as well.

“But if I knew then what I know now, I definitely would have curtailed it. If I had a kid now and he was 16 or 17, I’d be very careful of how many games he plays.

“I wouldn’t want him training three nights in a row for example..”

Duggan is currently training the U21 football team in his own club Ilen Rovers and is mindful of monitoring those players schedules following his own experiences. You’d see it in our own club, players arealso with schools teams, development squads and different things like that.

“From my experience, we’d be very careful in managing it. If they played a game, we wouldn’t expect them to train the night after. I think there’s more education about itnow to be honest and it has improved.

“I’d have seen in Cork over the last few years with the county senior footballers that they left the U21 players alone until their championship was over and didn’t play them in the early rounds of the league. That’s definitely great common sense.”

Duggan still endures painin his hip at times duringeveryday tasks like walking or driving.

“Walking around in general is grand but if I went for a long walk, the odd time I’d have to sit down as it would have got so sore that I couldn’t walk. But once I rested it, it’d be okay.

“Driving is still a little bit sore, if I was driving for more than an hour in the car and jumped out of it, it’d be very stiff.

” It’s just so annoying that the only sport I can really do is swimming. The less impact I can do now the better chance of prolonging the life of the hip I have. I will need a hipreplacement, there’s no doubt about that.”

Duggan is enjoying theexperience of helping outunderage teams in his club Ilen Rovers but any plans toimmerse himself fully in adult coaching are on the back-burner due to thefrustration he feels at not being able to play Gaelic football any more.

“I was involved with the Ilen Rovers U16s last year alright and just went on the line for the club senior side, but kept out of the coaching. I do the training with the Ilen Rovers U21s, I’m just one part of a five-man selection team, and I enjoy the coaching.

“But nothing will everreplace playing. And I’m not massively keen on it at themoment because I’m not gone long from playing.

Someday I wouldn’t mind doing coaching properly. Some people were wondering would I get involved with the club seniors this year but to be honest it would just frustrate me way too much because I still feel at my age I should be playing.”

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