THE BREAKING BALL: We are falling into the same trap

Manus Boyle


Manus Boyle

THE BREAKING BALL: We are falling into the same trap
As the football and hurling provincial club championships reach their climax some of the players involved have been training and playing for the guts of 12 months without a break.

As the football and hurling provincial club championships reach their climax some of the players involved have been training and playing for the guts of 12 months without a break.

Such is the commitment now expected at club level that the majority of club players will only have, at most, eight to 10 weeks of a break before they start training for 2104.

Last year, Dr Austin O’Kennedy gave a brilliant interview about player welfare. He described the nature of injuries that were coming before him.

He documented the stress and strain that players were putting on their bodies - both physically and mentally - and the feature of burnout was high on his list.

Austin’s frustration came on the back-end of how last year’s club championship was played out after the success of the county team.

As I said at the time, there was little or no respect shown - not only to the club players but also with the expectations that were being asked of the county players after their long hard summer.

If I am honest, I doubt if player welfare is very high on the GAA list of importance.

They might say it is but you could easily accuse them of paying only lip service because of the lack of speed in any change that might come about.

Considering that the clubs have agreed to leave the championship until Donegal are finished next year could have the same effect as 2012.

We have learned nothing. The original proposal by county management was to play two rounds of the club championship before Donegal began their Ulster campaign.

This was then switched to not starting the club championship till after Donegal’s summer is over but Jim McGuinness’s concern is not club players.

That is the concern of the club delegates who represent their clubs.

McGuinness’s job is to be as successful as he can with his panel.

The club delegates are supposed to look after the best interest of their players.

Did they do that by agreeing to calling of the championship off until the county are finished? So, we’ve a repeat of the club championship of 2012, where club players had to play three club championship games in a week.

But there is another side to player welfare I would like to touch on.

In a recent interview with The Irish independent, Cork hurler Conor Cusack spoke so well about his fight with depression and the contemplation of suicide.

He described how the help of his teammates and the support of the GAA family helped him overcome his demons.

He went on to say that in his continuous fight against depression that it’s the pat on the back at training or the text from a teammate that keeps him going.

He talks about overcoming his fear of talking about his problem out in the open having worried what would his teammates think of him?

How would they treat him and would it make the problem worse?

Gone are the days were men remained silent about what was going on in their minds.

The younger generation are more confident in themselves and are not quick to judge one another.

They are quick to support and understand the pressures that each other are going through - youth unemployment, the prospect of leaving their families, friends and of course there team mates, their support network.

In recent weeks the budget has hammered them even more, taking whatever little pride they had.

When a politician talks about young people not wanting to go out and work because they have it too handy on the dole. It only serves to compound the problem even more.

All the political world seem to do is cut the funding that might help the youth.

But the local GAA club are a huge lifeline. It’s somewhere for them to go, to be something, to feel important and make a contribution to their community.

Of course there is nothing new in this but lately, people who are in public life have come out and spoke of the problem of depression and the effects it can have.

The problem seems to arise mostly in young males so the more the problem is highlighted, the more help can be got for those that need it.

Many people might ask why I would write or comment on such a matter, what on earth has it to do with the GAA world?

But these young men are the ones we go and support every weekend.

If we can advise them along the way - for too long we have watched and said nothing as we watched a young man’s coffin draped in his club colours.

In finishing his interview, Cusack talked about returning to training after a lay-off.

He was overweight and struggling but as his teammates passed him.

There was the whisper in his ear to keep it going. There was the slap on the back, the nod, the little things that say more than words.

Once you play along with a crowd of lads, for a long time they are your team mates. And whether you like them or not there is a bond - on the field you would have done everything you could for them it should be no different when you off of it.