Galway hurler David Collins has admitted he’d have retired by now if it wasn’t for the career-threatening injury which forced him to take stock and conclude he’d been acting like ‘a tool’.
Collins, 32, has played in three All-Ireland finals and hopes to feature on Sunday week against Westmeath in the Leinster quarter-finals though he was initially told his career was over after serious ankle trouble in 2007.
It cost him around two-and-a-half years of his career though he now reflects if he hadn’t stepped out of the inter-county bubble at that stage, he may have continued along a destructive personal path which would have led to a premature retirement.
“Oh yeah, I’d be gone,” said Collins. “I wouldn’t be still hurling because I was so engrossed in hurling at the time. It was my life.
“I think it took over and it got to a stage where everything revolved around hurling. My relationships with family and friends all revolved around hurling. But then once I got the support of my family and friends, that was massive and you started thinking, ‘Jesus, these people are still here for me even though I was being an absolute tool to them and being unfair on them and expecting everything from them.’
“I don’t think I would still be hurling if I hadn’t been injured at that time and been forced to think of life outside of it.”
Collins drew from his experiences while dealing with various player related issues in his capacity of secretary of the Gaelic Players Association.
He was replaced in that role by Dublin’s Paul Flynn last winter. “After the death of our team-mate Niall Donoghue, I also got involved in a mental health organisation called Jigsaw in Galway,” continued Collins.
“That allowed me to understand what certain players are going through and what certain youths are going through.
“As a GAA player your profile is high because you’re there so long or whatever. But it’s what you can give back to the community as well. And in Galway it’s essential. Galway is a small place.
“The death of Niall was massive in our team and I think it still reverberates throughout the whole team whenever someone gets a number five jersey. And it’s crucial the GPA is there and that people outside of sport, supporters specifically, that they’re aware that players’ lives are on hold to play hurling and football. They’re not there to be put up on pedestals and to be criticised and abused.”
The GPA is currently in negotiations on two fronts; with the GAA regarding funding and with the government regarding the future of the player grants scheme. Collins said it is frustrating the GAA deal hasn’t been sorted yet after the lapsing of a five-year agreement.
“That deal has to be done fairly lively and I think that there’s a lot on the table. The player welfare issue has to be at the top of the agenda because you see the amount of mental issues that are there. Players are ropping out of the game because they can’t cope with the pressures, pressures that are external to those that the actual management are putting on players.”
David Collins was speaking at the launch of A Menarini Pharmaceuticals Ireland’s ‘Get Breathless for COPD’ cycle. The cycle will see 50 people endure a two-day cycle from Galway to Dublin on June 10th and 11th to raise awareness and funds for COPD Support Ireland.
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