Galway forward Damien Comer envisages semi-professionalism coming into inter-county GAA in the not-too-distant future.
Comer admits he might miss out on it, but reckons something will have to give, considering the increasing demands placed on players.
“I do think that at some stage there’s going to be some compromise for players,” he says.
“I know they’re on about tax relief and how there are talks about that, which would be something back at least.
“When you’re training five, six times a week, you need it. I can see it going semi-professional, or there’s going to be something. You see the money that’s generated on [All-Ireland] semi-finals, final day, there’s 80-odd thousand in Croke Park, so, I think there’s going to be something done. I don’t think it will be in my playing career, but I’d imagine there could be something done in the future.”
Like Jamie Barron and several others, 24-year-old Comer has tailored his career pursuits to complement his sport. Having worked with his father for a year as a plumber, he realised it wasn’t conducive to his game and he is now studying for a masters in education.
“My life is based around football, pretty much, but I don’t know would I have gone into it (plumbing) full-time anyway.
“I had choices, I got offered the guards, and I was also looking at teaching and I was going to do physio, they were my three options, last September 12 months. I picked the teaching and, then, I got offered the guards, but I thought that teaching was probably more suitable. You never have to get time off work to go playing football, whereas with the guards you’d be looking for time off work. With physiotherapy, you would have been up in Dublin for two years, which wouldn’t have been ideal for football.”
For six seasons, Divison 1 has been the Galway target. At this time of the year, all that Comer has known as a senior player has been life in Division 2. Connacht champions as they have been these past two years, top-flight experience is considered the missing link to progress. The heightened competition of Division 1 will compel Kevin Walsh’s men to utilise the game’s dark arts.
“You have to be more streetwise, obviously,” agreed Comer ahead of Sunday’s opener at home to Tyrone. “They’ve been around the block, they’re seasoned Division 1 campaigners. I suppose you have to bring your own edge. We’ve played a good few of them (Division 1 teams) in championship, anyway, and we’ve turned over a few of them. We’ll be looking forward to the challenges that arise and, hopefully, the aim will be to still be in Division 1 at the end of March.”
Galway’s weak Croke Park record isn’t something Comer gives too much thought to, though the team’s topsy-turvy form frustrates him.
“It’s a bit frustrating how we can blow a team out of the way when we play as well as we can, but that also just shows the potential that we have when we do it. Our problem is that we’re not doing it on a constant basis and that’s something we really need to look at this year. It’s something that has affected us the last two or three years and, hopefully, we can improve on that.
“Playing in Division 1 will help with that because you’re playing top teams every week and you can’t afford to have a bad performance or you’ll get shown up severely.”
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