Eamonn Fitzmaurice has dismissed Joe Brolly’s claim that county players are "indentured slaves", believing the discussion on burnout has been "overplayed".
Kerry’s All-Ireland winning manager rejects Brolly’s assertion that inter-county hurlers and footballers live a joyless existence.
“With regard to senior players, this thing about indentured slaves and so on, I don’t think that’s true,” he said.
“If you saw the townships in Cape Town, they are indentured slaves. I think inter-county players, there are a lot of demands placed on them. It is basically professionals in an amateur game, there is no doubt about that. They put a huge amount into it but they love it, they do it because they love it.
“If I have to ring a player to tell him he is not on a squad or not on a team, it’s like telling him all is dead belonging to him.
“I disagree completely with this joyless existence. I saw an article where Declan O’Sullivan was listed as a fella that had to retire and move on. It was his knees that forced him to retire. He wanted to play on. Aidan O’Mahony and Marc Ó Sé want to play on because they love it so much.
“Maybe in certain counties and certain set-ups its extreme, the enjoyment isn’t there. I’d put it this way: I’d love to be training in the set-up we have at the moment. I’d love to be a player in that set-up. To see physically what I could get out of myself. To be as athletic, as lean, as fit and as prepared as the lads are where they are doing absolutely everything. The players will tell you they enjoy what they are doing.”
Fitzmaurice accepts there is a problem at underage and called for a shortening of the GAA calendar so players would be afforded a close season.
“There is certainly an issue with 17 to 21-year olds. There are too many competitions, there is too much football, there are too many different masters, they are not centrally planned, there isn’t enough communication and there isn’t enough trust between managements. With regard to those players, they are being pulled in I don’t know how many different directions. So there is a big issue there.”
The Kingdom boss pointed to Kerry’s All-Ireland minor winning corner-back Brian Ó Beaglaoich as a prime example of an emerging figure unfairly being forced to serve several different masters.
“He is in the picture with the U21s. He is doing his Leaving Cert, he played Corn Uí Mhuirí last Wednesday and they progressed in that. He is trying to balance his studies with all this going on. It is a similar picture for the lads in college with Sigerson Cup, McGrath Cup, Hastings Cup. It is demanding. There has to be a better way of doing it.
“I would just love to see the calendar tightened. In the GAA it is hard to do it, there are so many competitions. There are so many vested interests. I would love to see the calendar tightened, the inter-county season shortened, the club player to have certainty of when championship games are on and a close season. Maybe you would need an extra month to achieve that, you would just like to see it done that way. I just think, as it is, it is dysfunctional.”
Meanwhile, Kieran Donaghy described as “remarkable” the road travelled from unused substitute in last August’s All-Ireland quarter-final win over Galway to securing the Kerry captaincy for 2015.
“Yeah it has been quite the transformation, absolutely,” he said.
“Even going back into winter training might not have even been on my radar back then. But to have the honour to lead this county for the next 12 months is quite remarkable.
“Sport is funny and it throws things at you. I was saying to a few people close to me that all the hardship I was going through must all be for a reason. Something will happen. And something happened and thanks be to God we are here talking about it and the future.
“It’s funny, I didn’t think about the captaincy until we were on the way back in on the bus the evening of the county final and one of the boys shook my hand. That was the first time it dawned on me. Even for me to put on a Kerry jersey and play for Kerry, because as a youngster I wasn’t one of those talented fellas who was scoring 1-8 in county minor finals, or anything.
“I was playing in a minor final when I was 17 and almost getting in the way at full-forward. So to go on and captain this great county is an unbelievable honour.”
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