Gaelic Players’ Association (GPA) chiefs admit that Joe Sheridan’s decision to emigrate is a “stark reminder of how bad things are in the Irish economy”.
The Meath star flew out to Boston yesterday where he will shortly begin a job in construction. The Seneschalstown club man issued a short statement saying it was an opportunity he could not ignore.
“After a lot of thought I have decided to emigrate to take up an opportunity I simply could not refuse. I finalised my decision to travel on Friday last, March 9. I would like to thank the Meath senior football management and the Meath county board who worked hard to secure employment for me but I feel that this opportunity abroad is something I need to do. I would like to wish my team-mates, club and county, the very best of luck in 2012.”
GPA spokesman Seán Potts admitted that Sheridan’s departure was “a shocking blow” to the GAA and to the players’ body.
He reasoned: “It is hugely significant because of Joe’s profile. Gaelic games can’t afford to lose players of his reputation and stature.
“Retaining talent of the quality of players like Joe is vital to the wellbeing of our games.
“He will be a huge loss to Meath and to Gaelic games in general. But we must just hope that he will be back home soon.
“Joe was our GPA representative in Meath and was a great rep. This now is a signal for us to redouble our efforts and give our players sound advice. Young players must not make decisions based on their short-term involvement in hurling and football but look at the bigger picture in terms of long-term employment. We can’t make jobs out of thin air but what we can do is offer support in terms of education and careers advice.
“But the crucial thing is to get to players early and give them a good start.”
Meath captain Seamus Kenny says Sheridan’s decision to emigrate indicates the pressures now faced by inter-county players in the workplace.
He is also adamant Sheridan wouldn’t have left if there were better work conditions for inter-county players in Ireland.
“Players leaving county panels because of work has been prevalent these last few months,” he said. “You look at Lar Corbett’s situation. GAA players, we do get some perks here and there, but it’s got a lot tougher.
“The way things have gone with the economy, employers see us maybe missing more time because of football. They’re not as freely disposed to lads just because they’re inter-county players.
“Joe is getting to the stage where he’s looking to see what happens further on down the line. In America, things are picking up again and there’s the lure of making more money for the same amount of hours as over here.
“At the end of the day, he couldn’t turn it down because it’s his future.”
The news struck Kenny hard and he admitted he almost crashed his car when Sheridan called to tell him he was leaving for the US.
He attempted to convince his friend to stay but realised Sheridan wasn’t for turning after he had struggled with the idea of leaving for weeks.
“It came as a bit of a shock. I got wind of it last week when Joe rang me up and told me. I nearly crashed the car, I was stunned into silence.
“I knew it was pretty serious because of his tone. It was a very tough decision for him to make. In the times we’re in, he just has to think of his future more than anything else.
“Me being selfish, I tried to talk him around to staying and play on but I realised I couldn’t. He had made his mind up.”
Kenny says Sheridan goes with the full backing of the Meath panel, who were informed of Sheridan’s departure by manager Seamus McEnaney following their post-match meal on Sunday.
“It was a strange kind of atmosphere,” he recalled of the news being given.
“There would have been a few rumours flying around the county but nothing had been said so it might have caught people off-guard.
“Seamus mentioned it after the meal and all the players were wishing Joe all the best. It was weird because we don’t know if we’ll see him in three or six months or whatever, but he goes with all the support of the panel.”
Kenny hopes Meath supporters understand how difficult a decision Sheridan was faced with.
“I wouldn’t like people to speak bad of Joe because he’s giving everything to Meath, 100% all of the time.
“He would tell you the only thing that would be holding him back was the football. From talking to him, the idea of going was taking up his days. Football was a big factor for him in staying. He’s trained hard these last few months and was getting back after injury. He didn’t make his decision lightly.”
Sheridan’s late goal almost saw Meath pull off a much-needed Division 2 away win over Galway on Sunday. After two consecutive one-point injury-time defeats, the Royals find themselves on four points after as many games.
Kenny appreciates they could do with Sheridan as they attempt to get their promotion campaign back on track.
“He’s one of the top-class forwards in the game. But he’s just a really good lad to have around the panel, a top-class fella. Losing him is a massive blow but we just have to get on with it.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved