THIS week I would like to look at the laws of attraction in terms of being an inter-county footballer nowadays.
Maybe it’s just me, but over the last few years I’ve seen more and more young lads opt away from the inter-county scene to pursue for the want of a better word – a normal life.
Over the last few weeks our own club, Gaoth Dobhair, has lost three talented youngsters who have gone travelling.
Cian Mulligan, Dáire Ó Baoill and Ódhran McFadden-Ferry have all played senior inter-county football in recent times, but this year they have decided that it’s time they took some time out for themselves.
You cannot blame any young lad for trying to broaden their horizons and live a little, but I’m just wondering if the increase in workload in what’s needed to become a successful inter-county player nowadays is just becoming too much for some?
Let me look at the pros and cons of being an inter-county footballer nowadays, and I’ll let you make that decision for yourself.
1 Structure and routine
I found that one of the biggest changes in your life when you move away from playing inter-county football is the lack of structure and routine in your day-to-day life.
If you are an intercounty footballer, you know how your week is going to look months in advance so planning and organising becomes easy. This structure and routine allows balance and clarity of thought in terms of what do each day.
2 Job and educational benefits
It’s no secret that if you’re handy enough, then college courses and employment come a lot easier if you are an inter-county player.
Being an inter-county player can be a massive help to any young lad starting out who may get a college scholarship or land their dream job.
3 Health and Wellbeing
The structure and routine and your daily training timetable mean that your body is in peak condition for most of the year.
Speaking from experience, I know that you feel a lot better about yourself if your weight is right and you’re feeling healthy, so being in this day-to-day routine guarantees a healthy body and feel-good factor.
I have put this one at the bottom, because like in any sport, there are only a handful of teams who are successful and who get to experience the ultimate high of winning, but for those lucky enough to do so it’s a massive achievement and it’s something that stays with you for the rest of your life.
1 Lack of normal life
For me, this has to be at the top of the list, because no matter what anyone else says, you do not have a normal life if you are an inter-county player.
If you’re a player who wants to reach the very top of the game, then in reality you are locked away from the normal world for the best part of seven or eight months of the year.
If you choose to go down this path, it means that simple things like birthday parties, weddings, christenings, or any social events like that are simply a no-go.
You can take it further if you want and even a simple thing like going out to eat in a restaurant can become an issue.
I remember towards the end of my playing days my wife would have to ring the restaurant and ask to be emailed the menu so that I could check if there was anything that I could eat before making a reservation.
2 Limits life experiences
This is probably the biggest factor when people decide whether or not to throw their lot in with the county.
If you are part of an intercounty team, then it’s just a given that things like travelling, going on holidays etc are put on the back burner. When your friends are away living their lives and seeing different places and experiencing different things you know that it’s just not an option for you if you are part of a county setup.
3 Professional development
Although it’s listed as one of the pros above, being a county player can also be a major disadvantage in terms of professional development.
Again, going back to my own time, my college degree was in marketing but in order for me to pursue a career in marketing it would mean that I would have to move to Dublin or London. With me playing for Donegal, that just wasn’t an option for me at the time, so I decided like many others to go down the teaching route.
Being a teacher would mean that I would have enough time off to pursue my dream of making it to the top with my summers off to train and finishing at three o’clock in the day so that’s why I went down that road.
Fast forward a number of years and I left my teaching job to go back and pursue my interest in the business world. I’m sure there are hundreds more out there, just like me who perhaps choose to go down a different career path when they were no longer an inter-county player.
Those are just a few positive and negatives that jumped out at me, so, like I said, I will let you make up your own mind on whether or not the attraction of being an inter-county player is as it was, or is it becoming more challenging?