“Rightly or wrongly GAA players do get some recognition. Maybe not as much perhaps in a county like Sligo but you do get some recognition nonetheless. So it annoys me to hear people talking about the sacrifice. To me, it’s living. And what is living? It’s trying to the best possible version of yourself.
“There’s this clichéd notion we can have as a nation that if you’re not out having 20 pints of Guinness and having a couple of takeaways at the weekend you’re not living. But it’s the instant gratification versus the self-awareness and maturity to go for the longer-term gratification. County football gave me that awareness.”
“I’ve seen it in Sligo where some fantastic footballers and servants like Ross Donovan and Brian Curran step away quietly and even people in Sligo didn’t know they’d retired. Whereas in the big counties when lads finish up there’s a bit of fanfare about it and lads on their development squads might subconsciously think that’s something they’d like people to one day say about them, that’s something they want to be part of.
“And that’s why when Sligo lads retired, I’d publicly acknowledge the careers they had. Because it might just ignite that young fella…”
“I’m not saying the team in the bottom of the middle group would beat the team at the top of that middle group but they’d be well able to beat them at least two times out of 10 and be competitive with them most of the time.
“It’d make county boards not so much answerable but accountable. Better. And you could roll that out then within counties. Have directors in hurling and football that can probe and prompt clubs along. You’d start to have higher participation rates, a more vibrant organisation across the board.”
“I know at least three lads who would have stayed playing club football with us who stopped playing over that. Players who had contested Connacht A schools finals with Summerhill and would have been good quality players for our club where sometimes we might only have 12 or 13 lads training during the week.
“And I was also seeing fellas around me who on that Sunday evening would also be in — I won’t say a dark place, let’s have a bit of perspective here — but a disappointing state and yet they were able to say: ‘Yeah, we’ve taken a kick in the balls but let’s stick together and keep our heads down and we’ll get it right next week.’ Lads like Charlie Harrison. Noel McGuire. Mark Brehony. Keelan Cawley. David Kelly. I could go on and on.”