McConville, a member of the GAA’s Scientific, Medical and Welfare committee says the majority of inter-county players are being forced to train seven days a week, lamenting how club, college and inter-county bosses need to reassess their demands. McConville’s plea stems from Joe Brolly’s outburst on Newstalk on Monday night and Brolly’s description of players as “indentured slaves”.
“The main concern is not that we are pushing players too hard or asking too much of them, what I would be worried about from a player welfare point of view is what’s suffering in the lives of inter-county players because of the unreasonable demands? Is it studies, is it work, is it relationships? Unless you are a full-time student, the pressures are going to come from somewhere,” reasoned Armagh All-Ireland winner McConville.
“Joe (Brolly) made an excellent point that managers have to realise that players need to live their life outside of the field and gym.
“We have imported professional practices into an amateur sport and players are suffering as a result. I see that, as a manager. Player burnout is more an issue now than it ever was.
“If you have a talented 19-year-old footballer, which we had in (Dundalk Institute of Technology) last year, and he is playing for his college, and U21 and senior for his club and county, then he is being pulled in five different directions. I have heard reports recently that this young man isn’t playing football of any description because of being dragged everywhere under the sun. Managers are looking for a pound of flesh from such players with no regard for the individual.”
McConville appealed for greater communication between respective management teams to ease demands on emerging figures, but is certain player burnout will continue to dominate discussion this time next year.
“If a county U21 and a county senior manager aren’t communicating, of course what is going to happen is that a young man is going to train until he falls down. I know this is a results-driven business, but there has to be joined-up thinking. You can bring managers and committee members into the one room and all you will get is the nodding dog syndrome, where everyone will agree to what is proposed.
“Outside that room, you will see people refusing to buy into any proposal to curb player burnout that involves players taking a step back from training. This is what happened in the past.
“I have spoken to managers telling them of lads who need a rest and they’re not paying you a bit of heed. They want results.
“We can bring them back into a room, tell them you cannot train before a certain date. They will nod and then go and break the rules again. The winter training ban is being broken all over the country. When you put all that together, you see how difficult it is to resolve a problem that hasn’t just raised its head today or yesterday.”
The GAA’s Medical, Scientific and Welfare committee is working on providing a support network for players “who have reached a crisis point as a result of training demands”.
“We don’t have any influence on how often teams train. What we can do is put in place structures to help a player struggling with time management. This outlet must be available to inter-county players, but yet it isn’t available to club players and they are coming under more and more pressure. We, and others like the GPA, need to see what we can do through the master fixtures list to alleviate this problem. Inter-county managers are dictating fixtures at present. (What’s most) disappointing is we still have to adequately tackle player burnout.”