By Niall Gartland
SHE’S not a manager, she’s not a player, she’s not a high-profile pundit but Caroline Currid is almost a household name at this stage.
Described in the Irish Independent in 2018 as ‘one of the most sought-after figures’ in the GAA, Sports Psychologist Currid has been performance coach of the Limerick hurlers for each of their five All-Ireland title triumphs over the course of the last six years.
She began her involvement as a sports psychologist within the GAA when she approached the then Tyrone manager Mickey Harte in late 2007. He agreed and it began her run of working with four different All-Ireland winning teams – the Tyrone and Dublin footballers and Tipperary and Limerick hurlers.
So whatever your take on the field of sports psychologists – Joe Brolly, we’re looking at you – it’s evident that Currid is a highly respected figure at the highest echelons of inter-county GAA.
Former Tyrone goalkeeper Pascal McConnell recalls the impact she made with Tyrone in the 2008 season. The Red Hands had endured a dip in form in the previous seasons, but they reassessed matters in 2008 and won their third All-Ireland title in memorable fashion. McConnell said that negativity was something Currid was particularly keen to banish from players’ thoughts.
“I personally found her very good,” said McConnell. “I know the psychology thing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, some people just like to stick with whatever’s good for them, but I found her very beneficial and I know others did as well.
“She gave us a fresh insight into how to approach the game and how to break things down in a mental sense. It was about getting that extra little percentage.
“Caroline was especially good for members of the team who were their own worst critic – establishing why that was the case and why hang onto such negativity. Negativity is no good, it’s baggage and you need to throw it in the bin.”
As McConnell alludes to, not everyone was keen on sit-down chats about their thoughts and feelings. Owen Mulligan and Conor Gormley weren’t sold on what Currid was selling, but the rest of the team enjoyed getting to the bottom of things.
“Heading into 2008, there was perhaps the sense that we were past it and over the hill. Mickey had spoken about bringing someone in, he saw the opportunity of winning another All-Ireland.
“Beforehand we had Bart McEnroe on board and he just didn’t work for the players. Caroline came in and the players seemed to take to her that little bit better.
“We had collective meetings with Caroline as well as one on ones. It allowed players, particularly the younger lads, to be a bit more open in a team setting.
“There were other players, ‘Mugsy’ and Conor Gormley spring to mind, who didn’t really have an interest in it. But when Croke Park beckoned those two boys stepped up to the plate irrespective so it’s hard to argue against it. There were no worries about those two lads when it came to the big day.
“It is a bit of a male thing to see speaking about feelings as a weakness but it’s far from it. She really drove home the idea of letting go of anything negative as it’s only detrimental to your performance, and that’s been backed up by the science.
“I remember myself having a bad game in the league that year and dwelling on it too much, maybe a fear of a repeat performance. You have to think more positively, you can’t change the past but you can affect the future and that’s something Caroline was great at instilling in players.”
Caroline’s story with Tyrone began and ended with the 2008 season. After that, they didn’t dispense with the psychological side of the game completely with manager Mickey Harte taking up the mantle.
McConnell said: “Ultimately it worked out very well for her, we won the All-Ireland and her CV speaks for itself, she moved onto Tipperary and Dublin and now Limerick. Her CV must be second to none at this stage.
“Mickey would’ve assumed the psychology role a little bit afterwards in terms of talking to players and having one on one meetings. If players had a dip of form or had been dropped, Mickey had a few words with them. It was beneficial too.”