More inter-county Gaelic players will follow the example of Rory O’Carroll and quit the game for a period of time, according to former Dublin full-back Paddy Christie.
And Cavan manager Terry Hyland has echoed Christie’s sentiments and warned inter-county footballers will find it increasingly difficult to sustain their current commitment while holding down a job.
The likes of Leitrim’s Emlyn Mulligan, Wexford’s PJ Banville and Jamie Clarke of Armagh have all decided in recent years to skip the inter-county season.
Donegal goalkeeper Paul Durcan is also unavailable to Rory Gallagher, having followed former team-mate Ryan Bradley to the Middle East.
Christie can see more following in O’Carroll’s wake. “Unfortunately, this is going to be more of a problem over the next number of years. It’s going to attach itself to both successful teams and particularly those who don’t win. Fellas who are young at the ages of 27 and 28 are going to start saying ‘I have to do something else with my life now’.
“The game has got so professional without pay people are looking at it and saying ‘I’ve won a few All-Irelands’. Other fellas are saying ‘I’ve won fecking nothing and all I’m going through here is pain and my job prospects aren’t great’. For me, that is more of a concern because Rory isn’t the first. This might be a common theme now when you have people going flat out for so long they just decide career-wise they have to move on.”
Cavan boss Hyland reckons inter-county football suits only students and certain occupations. “If it keeps going the way it’s going at the minute for another five or six years, I don’t know where they’re going to get players. I don’t know how you can work and play inter-county football going forward. It’s too demanding.”
Hyland added: “A lot of it is work commitments. It’s too hard – if you’re not a student or possibly a teacher or if you work in the trades, you haven’t a hope of playing inter-county football.”
Christie hopes there aren’t too many “dinosaurs” who believe O’Carroll, a qualified social worker, is “reneging on his county”.
He can recall how Alan Brogan took time out after Dublin’s early championship exit in 2003 to travel around Australia. “That was of benefit to him because he had a lot of mileage clocked, even by that stage.”
But 2002 All-Star Christie can understand why O’Carroll wants to further his work opportunities. “The day you finish on the pitch, that’s the end of it, really. The game moves on and you’re gone. Whatever you had before it, you go back to it. If it was a poor job, well, you were back in square one. Anything that furthers your career, that’s what you’re going to be left with. People always have to think of the long term.
“I was in college relatively late until I was 25, went back and did the post-grad at St Pat’s. It was really tough going and the thought did cross my mind I could put it off for a couple of years, that it didn’t really suit me with my football career. I’m teaching now 15 years and if I hadn’t done the course I would be in a much lesser place.”
Christie could see his fellow Ballymun Kickhams man Philly McMahon entrusted with the full-back berth vacated by O’Carroll at least on a temporary basis.
“It might be a stop-gap measure to put him in there. In fairness, he ended up in that position a number of times so it wouldn’t be a huge problem. The game has moved on from where the full-back was the fulcrum of the defence. It’s the day of sweepers and the days of full-back taking on the full-forward in a manly battle at the edge of the square are sort of gone. I mean no disrespect to Rory – it’s a problem – but it’s not insurmountable. It will be a thorn in Jim (Gavin)’s side but it won’t rip apart the whole year.”
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