Is it now time for our young, aspiring dual inter-county players to choose one code over the other, even at club level?
With our games gone so professional and the pressures on our young players to play for every team while still trying to compete against the best, it is an impossible task.
The hurlers of Kilkenny and Tipperary, plus the footballers of Dublin, Mayo, Donegal and Kerry have dominated the GAA landscape over the last number of years. All proud GAA counties but with one thing in common, very few, if any, have dual players in their ranks.
We have romantic notions of the next Teddy McCarthy winning All-Irelands in both codes. Players such as Aidan Walsh have heroically tried in vain to compete at the highest level but something had to give. Inter-county has now gone so professional in preparation and skill that to even try to compete with the cream of the crop, players now can only serve one master.
Dublin were first to deal with this issue, where star underage dual players Ciaran Kilkenny, Cormac Costello and Eric Lowndes threw their lot in with the county footballers, where the lure of the hill and the romanticism of Heffo’s Army still has a stranglehold on even the youngest of Dublin players. Whether this was a player or county board decision, who knows? Decision made.
How can a multiple dual player play for club, college and county compete with a Richie Hogan or a Bubbles O’Dwyer at senior hurling level, and also play in a Junior Football Club Championship match the previous weekend?
For many young dual players this is their schedule:
1. U-21 Club 2. U-21 Club
3. Junior/Intr/Snr Club 4. Junior/Intr/Snr Club
5. U-21 Divisional 6. U-21 Divisional
7. Senior Divisional 8. Senior Divisional
9. Freshers College 10. Freshers College
11. Senior College 12. Senior College
13. U-21 County 14. U-21 County
15. Senior County 16. Senior County
What about the burn out factor and the knee ligament injuries that have hampered our games and still remain a major problem? What percentage of young dual players pushing their aching muscles to the max? Does the above schedule have anything to do with this?
Even to this day our young dual star is being criticised by his club peers for not being present enough at training sessions or not being available for the juvenile awards night.
“He’s got big headed, he’s all about inter-county” can be heard from the locals as our young hero pumps iron in a gym session or is in a pool for a recovery session. Maybe he is cramming in a bit of study (yes they do go to college to study) or maybe the young lad just wants a bloody night off.
Is it time for our underage players, once they start being selected for county development squads, be advised by their peers to pick one code? Excel at one and enjoy your rest days, instead of being pulled and dragged to play for every team.
The dual player issue has been hotly debated in inter-county circles over the last number of years, but we need to dig deeper and accept that in order to protect our young talented players, the argument must include the possibility of playing either football or hurling for club also.
The games are getting faster, the hits bigger, the injuries more career-threatening. Sounds familiar? Well, that’s how professional rugby is at present as we look on at the World Cup. However, I am talking about juvenile amateur players playing GAA in every parish in Ireland.
Results on the pitch are now showing how the county with non-dual participation are winning All-Irelands, the same can be said for the All-Ireland club championship.
The pressure especially in today’s society is immense, add to this the physical and mental strains on our talented youth to be successful on our playing fields, extreme.
We now have a players association, the GPA ,who are rightly there to protect our top players and be a voice. But who is the voice for our teenagers, the selfish club coach, the pushy parent?
There needs to be a discussion on youth burn out and the ridiculous schedule that our young players have to endure.
It is time to set up a new GPA youth scheme, giving young players a body where they are given the proper advice and are represented in a way where stressful decisions like playing schedules are taken from them.
A template can then made where these players only play one code, can only play for x amount of teams and x amount of games throughout the year.
The decision is taken out of the young player’s hands, and GPA Youth act like agents, who dictate to the clubs how many matches of the one code their player can play.
Gone are the days of the heroic GAA player who plays a club county football final with a debilitating injury a week after playing for his county in a bruising hurling encounter. Enough is enough, a level playing field please.
Time to end the madness, time to respect our players and an end to their dual commitments.
“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field” – Vince Lombardi.
Donal Cashin, Pundit Arena