Conor McManus' views on the pressures of the GAA are pure and utter common sense
If you don't want to play county football, don't do it.
It's easy to get lost in all the outrage. Boys having to sign contracts, club players training at 6 in the morning, holidays being cancelled and everything else.
Playing with your club is supposed to be a pastime but a lot of people have long since stopped enjoying themselves and the mental demands that come with representing your senior team have forced men to quit, to opt for reserves or, worse, leave the country. Okay, it's not why everyone is leaving the country but getting away from all that drama and pressure is definitely an added benefit for some.
— SportsJOE.ie (@SportsJOEdotie) April 17, 2016
If you want to win, you have to put the effort in and you have to be damn well committed to the cause. You have to be willing to do what others won't and you do, admittedly, have to be single-minded in your pursuit.
It doesn't mean that you can't have a life outside of football or hurling. It doesn't mean that you can't leave it behind on the field when you've given it your all.
No-one will argue against what people will put their bodies through in order to succeed - or at least try to succeed. There's something heartwarming in that grind, boys literally emptying the tank to make themselves better. But it's the torture and pestering and controlling outside of what you do in training that gets on top of you and makes you feel like you have no time off and you have no freedom.
The best coaches have the balance right and, as captain of Wicklow champions Baltinglass would tell you, "no-one has a gun to my head telling me to go to training."
There's another level then though. If you want to be a county player, you want to play at the top of the sport.
If you want to be a county player, then you want to play at national level and you have to accept the elite demands that come with that.
They're amateur, yes. But these are the best sportspeople in Ireland and in the entire GAA. To succeed, you have to be the very, very best. No half measures. Conor McManus hasn't won two Ulster titles with Monaghan by complaining about what's expected of him.
"There’s nobody throughout the country being forced to do it; it’s your own choice," the Monaghan captain told reporters during the week.
"As far as I’m concerned, you don’t do it unless you’re enjoying it so it’s not a burden, it’s an honour for any player to pull on his county jersey as far as I’m concerned."
To put it simply, if you don't like the demands of being an inter-county footballer, don't be an inter-county footballer. You won't have to quit the GAA, just come out of the top bracket.
Conor McManus, right now, is the most important player in Gaelic Football https://t.co/8i9EEtWopi
— SportsJOE.ie (@SportsJOEdotie) June 5, 2016
You'll still have your problems away from there though. Just ask any club player. Just look at any GAA fixture list.
The ESRI are about to conduct a research project to study the demands on inter-county footballers but the Club Players Association could benefit from those findings as they continue to lobby for better treatment of club players.
"I don’t know if they’ll have to get overly radical," said McManus. "I think everyone is aware that there are issues with the fixtures and that’s why this [ESRI study] is being carried out, to look into players’ welfare and to try to get a common ground.
"I’m assuming everybody is in the same boat in terms of getting a solution to it all so the CPA can only help that along."
McManus' sacrifices have been so much so that he's expecting he'll need a hip replacement at some stage.
Too many footballers suffer from hip injuries and then when you have ones as talented as the Clontibret forward, you manage them, you don't tell him to go away for a year or two to fix it. He's been playing since his teenage years with a problem occurring and never got the right treatment so it won't surprise him to have to deal with the issue head on in a few years.
Just not now, Monaghan fans.
You see, he sacrifices for the cause.
“It’s something that’s there and further down the line you are probably looking at a hip replacement," he admitted. “Hopefully that’s as far away as possible and you’ll just deal with it."
The alternative would be not playing. That's not an option.
On this week's GAA Hour that controversial St Brigid's contract is torn apart, while Wooly heads along to the Club Players Association launch. Listen below or subscribe on iTunes.
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