More and more inter-county GAA players appear to be choosing careers away from the pitch to suit their ambitions on it and Sean Cavanagh isn’t one bit comfortable with that.
Waterford hurler Jamie Barron admitted this month that he is considering a teaching career simply because it would suit the lifestyle needed as a player and his manager Derek McGrath has encouraged players to follow that very route.
Cavanagh retired from the inter-county game last year after Tyrone’s All-Ireland exit and saw much the same: players opting for a career in teaching and others who decided to job share rather than commit to 40-hour a week roles.
It “irks” him to see how the tail is now wagging the dog.
“Are our guys choosing the right careers for themselves?
“Or are they choosing a career to play inter-county football? “Because, to play inter-county football, you need an incredible amount of time for recovery.”
Cavanagh would love to see a comparison between the hours put into their respective sports by someone like Alexis Sanchez and one of the top Dublin players. By his reckoning, the Gaelic footballer would rack up 25 to 30 hours a week.
Add in a full-time job and that’s 70 hours every week accounted for before thoughts of family, friends, further education or a social life are considered.
He himself was leaving the Moy at 6.30am and returning at 9.30 that night.
And that was four or five times a week.
Cavanagh knows he was “blessed” to have the career he did and acknowledges the fact that there was no-one putting a gun to his head but the routine of saying ‘see you tomorrow’ to his kids first thing in the morning was one that never sat right.
“It’s tough and, look, everyone loves it. Everyone loves being in the inter-county scene and I loved every minute but equally you do have to take a step back and wonder it is right for everyone … it’s almost as if they are changing their lives to suit it.”
He at least knew there was a decent chance of silverware.
He fears for the weaker counties in particular where those carrots are thin on the ground.
As for a fix? With professionalism off the agenda, players are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “That’s for the new Director General to work that one out.”
Cavanagh thought his own workload would plummet after calling time on Tyrone but Moy’s unlikely run through to this Saturday’s All-Ireland Intermediate Club final in Croke Park has waylaid some best laid plans.
Again, it’s a cross he’s happy to bear, the commitments with the club have filled any void he might have felt. Tyrone returned to league action without him in Galway last weekend and it caused him no pangs. He has, to all intents and purposes, forgotten that he retired at all.
“The club run has allowed me almost to fall in love with the game a wee bit again.” Training is limited to two nights a week these days and there is scope for the odd laugh or breather that wasn’t there in Tyrone’s Garvaghy base.
No bad thing for a man with three kids and a new business just off the ground.
So, while Tyrone’s minds turn to this Saturday evening’s visit of Dublin round two of the Allianz League, Cavanagh will be contemplating an unforeseen return to Croke Park having said his goodbyes to the stadium as a player last August.
“No more Battles of Omagh for me,” he laughed.
A bonus, then. Not just for the fact that Moy had gone an eternity without a county title before all this but because they have eked out unlikely win after unlikely win getting here.
None more so than last week.
Down six points to three against An Ghaeltacht in Semple Stadium, the Tyrone champions scored 1-2 in injury-time to see off the Kerry side in a physical, low-scoring game played in some appalling conditions.
“We thought, ‘look, we’re coming up against a team that’s possibly unbeatable at this level’.
“We nipped them, we were fortunate. It was only after we were sitting in Hayes Hotel and you could sense the excitement among lads that, ‘We’re going to Croke Park, this is it’.”
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