I have seen hundreds of CVs which detail stories of busy and hectic GAA careers depicting huge achievements on the field of play while at the same time highlighting major short-comings throughout disjointed career paths. 

The recent furore emanating from the comments of RTE pundit and ‘Ireland Mail on Sunday’ contributor Joe Brolly has given a new lease of life to the perennial debate concerning GAA Player’s Welfare. Brolly has asserted that inter county GAA players now base their careers around their chosen sport. Is this view correct? Yes, it most certainly is. Is there any doubt or discrepancy hidden in such a view? No.

The GAA ‘career path’

I have seen hundreds of CVs which detail stories of busy and hectic GAA careers depicting huge achievements on the field of play while at the same time highlighting major short-comings throughout disjointed career paths. In some instances, players from the ages of sixteen and seventeen feel bound to a level of participation on the GAA fields that does not allow for a functioning academic life – limiting third level options. By the time these players break through to u21 level this ‘back-seat’ syndrome afforded to most aspects of their lives outside of sport is firmly cemented when dealing with figures of management at both club and county level. This is then where careers begin to get affected.

The GAA by its very founding principles is traditional – 130 years and counting of unrivalled prominence in Irish sport. However, you could argue that this focus on tradition has blinded many inside the game to where it has gone in recent years, especially since Armagh’s blue-print came to fruition in 2002. In sporting terms, the GAA have adopted almost every professional practice that could be adopted, not only that but counties are now competing with each other to fine tune those practices. Players are now in an era where careers are being constructed around GAA commitments, to allow them time to fulfil the duties of a GAA ‘career’. The problem with this idea and GPA scholarships is that they don’t make you an attractive prospect in today’s employment market. Employers want to see real careers with real stages of progression on display.

Building a real career

The players must now become masters of their own destiny in this light. They must now accept that the responsibility lies with them, to start putting careers first. In a nutshell, GAA playing careers start in your early twenties and finish in your early thirties – professional careers last 40-50 years, and are getting longer. Player’s must recognise that going from job to job, or scholarship to scholarship, eventually comes back to bite you. Careers need to be developed throughout your twenties, not left on hold until you finish playing.

These players demonstrate an admirable level of focus, commitment and dedication to the cause whenever they turn out for their clubs, represent their counties or hit the training field. If you can apply those characteristics to your career, you will be a success – whether you’re an inter county star or the second choice corner back for your local club.

Listen to Shane discuss Inter-County GAA careers on Galway Bay FM

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