Ten people who went full-time in pursuit of GAA glory

Mickey Harte
Mickey Harte

Derek McGrath’s decision to take parental leave from his work as a teacher in Waterford city’s De La Salle for the second successive year highlights what managers, never mind players, are prepared to do to dedicate themselves to success.

McGrath is the latest in a long line of men, many from Kerry, who have either taken time out from their careers or adjusted them so they could devote more of themselves to their GAA pursuits.

Mickey Harte

A teacher for 27 years, Harte stepped away from the profession after Tyrone’s All-Ireland success in 2003 and worked with Martin Short Auctioneers for a time. He still involves himself in some real estate agency work as well as Titan Experience but in a part-time capacity.

And with Tyrone’s Garvaghey centre of excellence a short drive away things are even more convenient for the three-time All-Ireland winning boss.

Declan O’Sullivan

In his Laochra Gael programme last year, O’Sullivan mentioned he quit his job as a Powerade sales rep in 2006 after he lost his starting place for Kerry after the Munster final replay loss to Cork. “I trained like a dog those summer months after the Munster final. I was a full-time athlete. I’d get up in the morning. I’d eat well. I’d go for a nap in the middle of the day. I have no doubt in my mind if I didn’t make that decision to step away from work at the time there ‘s no way I would have been able to get myself right to get on the team.”

Tony Griffin

The former Clare hurler had been studying for a masters degree in human kinetics in Canada back in 2006 but took a year out so that he could give his all to hurling with Clare. The Banner eventually lost out to Kilkenny at the All- Ireland semi-final stage by eight points.

Jack O’Connor

In 2007, the two-time All-Ireland SFC winning manager had to deny he was paid by the Kerry County Board after he revealed in his autobiography, Keys to the Kingdom, he worked half days as a teacher the year before and the board reimbursed him for being a full-time manager in the afternoons. O’Connor later clarified the board paid for a family holiday but no money exchanged hands.

Jim McGuinness

Other than sports psychology and fitness consultation, McGuinness didn’t have a full-time occupation prior to being signed up by Celtic in November 2012, two months after Donegal’s All-Ireland success. The flexibility in those two first seasons afforded him ample time to prepare a group of players that had been embarrassed by Armagh in the 2010 All-Ireland qualifiers.

Paul Galvin

Two seasons after he claimed a fourth All-Ireland title and the footballer of the year award, Galvin quit teaching. Setting out on his fashion and social media career, he was able to commit himself totally to football. Ahead of the 2011 season, he revealed he was “a full-time footballer”.

Darran O’Sullivan

In November 2014, O’Sullivan gave up his day job with Ulster Bank to focus on playing with Kerry. He did some work with Sky Sports Academy but after a series of injuries wanted to be able to “concentrate on keeping the body right.” O’Sullivan will soon open a pub/restaurant in Rossbeigh.

Ten people who went full-time in pursuit of GAA glory

Kieran Donaghy

In 2015, Donaghy followed O’Sullivan’s example and left Ulster Bank to give more of his time to Kerry having been made captain following Austin Stacks’ county championship success the year previous, though, at the time, he stressed he was looking for work. He now works as development manager for PST Sport artificial surfaces.

Karl Lacey

Two years ago, the 2012 footballer of the year revealed he was a full-time Gaelic footballer after completing his thesis in UL.

Ten people who went full-time in pursuit of GAA glory

“There’s no getting away from the fact not working, having the time to live that kind of life, is helping me perform better on the pitch,” the Donegal man said

Brian Cody

The great man has never given any indication he stepped away from teaching in 2015 for hurling or health reasons but his decision to seek early retirement at the age of 61 gave him more time to concentrate on Kilkenny. He was appointed principal of St Patrick’s De La Salle Boys School in Kilkenny city in 2009 having succeeded former Kilkenny chairman Paul Kinsella.


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