In another of the GAA’s off-season retirements, Garbh Madigan takes a look back at the career of Sean Armstrong.
For those of us who remember the great Galway minor and under-21 teams of the 2000s, today is a sad day.
At the prime age of 29, Sean Armstrong has revealed to the Irish Independent that he has retired from inter-county football.
The Salthill-Knocknacarra attacker is aged just 29, but he says he has lost the “grá” for the game, especially after a 2014 season in which he was not a regular starter for the Tribesmen.
While he did not start a game for Galway in the Championship of 2014, he was still prominent in attack, often the first attacking substitute brought in for a team lacking a focal point outside of talismanic young forward Shane Walsh.
“I wouldn’t be one for excuses but I felt frustrated that I had so much more to give but the management didn’t see it that way. I feel I was harshly treated. I felt I had a lot more to give and I know some of the other players would think that too, particularly last year. The previous years I had no excuses. I could only look to myself. I just don’t have that desire to go back and have done as much as I possibly can.”
Armstrong burst on the scene alongside the brilliant Caltra forward Michael Meehan, both scoring hat-tricks in the Under-21 All-Ireland Championship Final against a brilliant Down team. During his time with the senior team, Armstrong won two Connacht senior football championship medals, in 2005 and 2008. On the club scene, Armstrong was an All-Ireland senior winner with Salthill-Knocknacarra in the 2005/06 season.
Armstrong says he has had a few conversations with new Galway manager Kevin Walsh on his future with the county, but that ultimately he felt he was no longer able to give the commitment required.
“I have chatted with Kevin, a couple of long chats through November and the beginning of December but I don’t see myself returning to the fold in January and that will be it for me then.
“I haven’t the same love for it that I once had. It has become extremely time-consuming. To go back into the fold, in my eyes, you need to be 100 per cent committed to the cause and I don’t want to go back even 80 per cent or 90 per cent feeling that if I go back in I’ll get the grá back (and) I’ll get motoring.”
The young Under-21 side of 2005 remains a tragic tale as many of the squad never reached their full potential due to injury, especially Meehan who, despite becoming one of the best forwards in football, was cut down by injuries well before his prime.
While he is not officially retired from county football, his knees are shot and it was announced that he would be off the panel for “the foreseeable future” due to a “protracted battle with injury. Finian Hanley is now the only member of the All-Ireland winning squad remaining on the 2014 panel.
Galway’s woes also include the retirement of forward James Kavanagh. The former Kildare twice All-Star nominated half forward said,
“I’ve given it enough, I have given it as much as I can. Between work and family now I just don’t have the five or six days to give it that you need for inter-county.”
This leaves Galway bereft of experience in their forward line despite the presence of exciting young star Walsh as well as the speedster half forward Micheal Lundy.
Armstrong’s departure continues a gutting of senior players from squads, headlined by former All-Stars Declan O’Sullivan, Benny Coulter and Brendan McVeigh (both, Down), Dessie Dolan (Westmeath), Aaron Kernan (Armagh), Paddy Keenan (Louth) and Stephen O’Neill (Tyrone).
Also to leave the inter county spotlight are Brian Mallon (Armagh), Martin Penrose (Tyrone), Brian Meade and Eoin Harrington (Meath) and also Shane Lennon (Louth).
In all, this illustrates a worrying trend whereby GAA players are leaving in their twenties (not even so in Armstrong’s case) and cannot keep up with the commitment and high demands of inter county football including five or six nights a week training while also supporting families and working full-time jobs.
This leaves us with troubling thoughts about an amateur game that may almost be too professional.
Garbh Madigan, Pundit Arena
Read More About: Aaron Kernan, benny coulter, Brendan McVeigh, Brian Mallon, Brian Meade, declan o'sullivan, Dessie Dolan, Eoin Harrington, GAA, galway gaa, James Kavanagh, Kevin Walsh, Martin Penrose, Micheal Meehan, paddy keenan, Sean Armstrong, Shane Lennon, stephen o'neill