More than half of the hurlers taking part in this weekend’s All-Ireland semi-finals are either students or teachers.
The move away from teams made up of farmers and labourers is evident across the board, as 56 of the 104 players likely to be named on the matchday panels are in education.
Thirty-seven are in college, including a whopping 10 of the Limerick starting 15, while 19 are working as teachers. Clare’s John Conlon is a primary school teacher but also studying strength-and-conditioning at Setanta College.
Cork’s Patrick Horgan, who works in logistics with Crane Worldwide, recently said teachers don’t have it easy during term, but get the full benefits at this time of year: “When we’re all going to work, our legs hanging off us, they’re in bed.”
The increase in inter-county teachers has coincided with Mary Immaculate’s rise as a Fitzgibbon Cup power, while the colleges’ competition has become near mandatory for top-level hurlers. UL won this year and boasts 12 players between the Limerick and Clare matchday panels, nine of whom study business or business teaching.
Shane O’Donnell was Clare’s hat-trick hero their last time out in Croke Park and the UCC student, who’s doing a PhD in food science, will head to Harvard in September on a Fulbright Scholarship.
There are no full-time farmers remaining in the championship, a career which was once the bedrock of inter-county teams and accounted for five of the Hurling Team of the Millennium.
John Doyle was even elected to the Seanad on the Agriculture Panel, while a farm accident brought an end to Bobby Rackard’s inter-county career.
Wexford legend Tony Doran last year remarked that there were up to eight farmers on his Wexford All-Ireland champions of 1968, but that farmers today struggle to find the time to commit.
Clare full-back David McInerney is a primary teacher, but helps out on his father’s farm. He milked more than 80 cows before the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final, as his parents were in Dublin.
An increasing trend among inter-county players is switching careers to accommodate their sport. Galway's Jason Flynn and Colm Callanan run their own gyms, with Callanan having quit his job as a traffic management safety officer for a civil engineering company, due to its impact on his performances.
It was very demanding and it got to the stage where you wouldn’t even know what day it is and you’d have to go training. It just wasn’t conducive to playing inter-county hurling,” he said.
Cork centre-back Eoin Cadogan worked as an electrician and in sales before becoming a strength-and-conditioning coach. Midfielder Bill Cooper left carpentry after a back injury to become a quantity surveyor.
I was out for 14 months. I had a bulging disc in my back, fairly crippled, shooting pains in the leg, all that. Wear and tear caused it. I was serving my time as a carpenter and training hard, that was it,” said Cooper.
The financial sector is the third-highest employer of this weekend’s stars, accounting for 15 players, including Conor Lehane, who previously studied a criminology masters in UCC. Some are in engineering, including Johnson & Johnson employee and interim GPA CEO Seamus Hickey of Limerick, as well as construction and IT. Hickey’s Limerick teammate Richie McCarthy works as a clerical officer for Cork City Council.
In the Cork squad, Christopher Joyce is a lean champion at IT disposal and data destruction firm Wisetek, while Damien Cahalane opened Cahalane’s pub in Cork city last month.
Health professionals, especially doctors, are in short supply in hurling, although Limerick’s Shane Dowling runs Raheen Pharmacy.
Another vocation absent from the top-level playing field, reflecting societal trends, is the priesthood. A Westmeath Independent article last year (headlined ‘Was this side the most religious Westmeath football team ever?’) noted their 1952 Leinster champions, which included seven future priests. Some fine hurling coaches were priests (Canon O’Brien in Cork, Fr Harry Bohan in Clare and Fr Tommy Maher in Kilkenny) but the clergy are absent from current county set-ups.
Two managers still standing are in education (John Meyler, a CIT lecturer, and John Kiely, principal of the Abbey School in Tipperary).
Clare’s Donal Moloney is a senior supply chain director at DePuy Synthes in Ringaskiddy and Gerry O’Connor a sales manager of drilling engineering firm Mincon, while Galway’s Micheál Donoghue is a car salesman.