Darran O'Sullivan admits he 'regrets not buying into sports psychology' when he was playing
"I genuinely feel that it cost us a lot of All-Irelands after."
Sports psychology certainly isn't a new thing, but its importance in GAA circles is becoming increasingly significant as more teams and players buy into it.
Most famously, Dublin's era of dominance credits a lot of their successes to the mentality that the players had, and their ability to always stick to the process, never getting too emotional or impulsive.
However, there has always been skepticism around this particular trade, and when some managers have tried to bringing such professionals in, a lot of groups just wouldn't take to it.
Speaking on the GAA Hour, former Kerry captain Darran O'Sullivan chatted to Mayo legend, Keith Higgins, about how psychology was viewed in their early years, compared to how it is now.
"I mentioned the sports psychologist Keith, and I’m not sure - it’s only since I’ve retired that I started thinking more about that side of the game with Kerry, and we never used one.
"I remember Jack O’Connor back in my first few years, ‘06 or ‘07, whatever it was, he brought one in and your man was laughed out the door. We didn’t really buy into it and I genuinely feel that it cost us a lot of All-Irelands after."
Higgins shared O'Sullivan's initial concerns when Mayo were introduced to this process.
"We would have used a few down through the years. Again, I would have been similar to you in the fact that I think most teams in the early years were nearly, not dismissive of them, but nearly wary of them.
"There was no trust, I think there was plenty of them out there who always went through the same sort of exercises, to try and build that trust and that probably didn’t help either.
"I know when James Horan came in in 2011, he brought in Kieran Shannon with him. He wouldn’t be known as a sports psychologist you know, he was probably better known as a journalist for the Examiner, but he did a lot of work with us on the kind of confidence side of things.
"It was the fact that he just made it very practical, he would break it down into figures for you, and he would look at kind of ‘why this team can win’ and ‘why that team can’t win' and ‘why you would do so well’ - and he just broke it down into real practical stuff, and that kind of worked really well for us at the time.
We have a belter of a show for you today 🏐@keithhiggins7 joins us to talk Mayo - hurling and football. While @EamonMcGee has a big smile on his face. In the middle of it all is @Darransull86 🎙️
- Sports Psychology
- U20 semi
- Eugene Branagan...
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"Then when Steven came in he had brought Niamh Fitzpatrick in, but she had worked with Wexford before, the hurlers, when they won the All-Ireland, and she was very good, and she was different, and that was probably towards the end-stage of my career. Probably at that stage, you’re thinking about the game a bit different as you get older.
"Again, my thing on sports psychologists is, I’m sure we’ve both seen, or we’ve all been at stages where they bring in a sports psychologist and do the exercise in front of a group of 30-35 people.
"Not everyone in that group has the same mindset or thinks about the game in the same way, it’s a very individual thing I think. It can’t be a thing that you do in a group of 30 people and expect the same results for everyone, it has to be done on an individual basis on what works best for each of the players."
"Yeah I think you’re right, and it has to be continuous, and to be honest it’s one of the things I regret not buying into more when I was playing," Kerryman O'Sullivan responded.