January may be the time of year when young and ambitious unknowns bust a gut to break onto inter-county panels, but Dublin’s hurlers and footballers have gone about their business recently without key players who decided instead to walk away from it all.
Jim Gavin’s footballers, who relinquished their grip on the O’Byrne Cup with Sunday’s semi-final loss to Longford, will defend their league, Leinster and All-Ireland titles without the input of All-Star full-back Rory O’Carroll who has left for New Zealand.
Ger Cunningham, who opted to drop Alan Nolan and Simon Lambert from his senior hurling panel, has had to contend with the news 2013 All-Star attacker Danny Sutcliffe was stepping aside in order to concentrate on his studies.
O’Carroll and Sutcliffe are far from the only inter-county players to cut the cord with the elite level of the game in recent months or years, but symbolise the difficulty many have in combining high-class amateur sporting ambitions with careers and a personal life.
The incessant demands on players was highlighted again this week when Eddie Brennan called for the pre-season provincial competitions to be scrapped, prompting Leinster Council chairman John Horan to come to their defence.
Johnny Cooper, who soldiered alongside O’Carroll in Dublin’s full-back line, echoed the words of many a player when he suggested it is in fact more game-time they want rather than less though he was understanding of his erstwhile colleague’s decision to depart.
“It is a call he obviously made with his family and his girlfriend to go away,” said Cooper at an AIG sponsorship launch.“Would I consider it? Personally I enjoy the challenge and the honour of getting to represent (Dublin), so would it come from me? I’m not sure.
“Rory, I know he likes to experience different things. Football for him, like many of us, is only one aspect of our lives. I’m sure it has entered lads’ heads and thought process, the commitments, etc, but the honour to play for Dublin is something that is quite apart for me.”
It is one dearly bought. Paul Schutte’s everyday existence has been compromised in recent months by the shoulder injury that needed subsequent surgery and saw him sit out Cuala’s recent Dublin and Leinster SHC successes.
It will be mid-March before he expects to return to the field. Like Cooper with O’Carroll, Schutte had nothing but praise for Sutcliffe who felt he would be unable to give the commitment required to the county hurlers in 2016. That commitment was explained in detail by Schutte himself yesterday.
“I work in Davy Stockbrokers so I start at eight o’clock. I leave my house at seven. Because I’m doing rehab on my shoulder I’m lucky Davy have a gym in work so sometimes I can pop in before work. I do my daily job and pop in at lunch to do Pilates or maybe my rehab and then finish at half-five and go straight to training at seven.
“Get home around half-ten, prep my meals and into bed by 11. It’s so demanding and that’s the case with Danny. Unless you can give 100% and, knowing the man he is, Danny wants to be the best and I don’t think he’d be true to himself only giving 80%. That’s my take on it.”
The GAA world will keep turning without them, of course. Jarlath Curley has been auditioned extensively at O’Carroll’s old position on the edge of the square this month while the sight of Oisin Gough featuring for the hurlers after his spell in voluntary exile is proof O’Carroll and Sutcliffe may yet be seen in blue again.
Both Cooper and Schutte were of that opinion yesterday. “I don’t think it will be the end of Danny,” said Schutte. “I definitely think it could be (the same) case as Oisin Gough where he just had to look after himself for the two years and then when he can afford to put the time in he will be back.”
It was also confirmed Stephen Cluxton will be Dublin captain for a fourth consecutive season.
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