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04th Apr 2024

Jarlath Burns’ attitude to drinking in the GAA is something we can all learn from

Patrick McCarry

Jarlath Burns

“I have a serious issue with it.”

Back in February, Jarlath Burns was voted in as Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael (President of the GAA) during the Annual Congress, at Croke Park.

The Armagh native has been a popular figure in the game for a number of years and, at his second run at the presidency role, swept in. He has been pretty busy, since, but found time to chat with RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke for his Insights podcast. During the show, he laid out his stance on drinking within the GAA, and what he makes of drinking bans, for clubs and inter-county sides.

Burns is ‘a very proud member’ of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, but has a well-rounded take on alcohol consumption – everything in moderation. “I’ve met a lot of people that regretted having that first pint,” he said, “but I’ve never met anyone that has regretted becoming a pioneer. It has served me so well.”

Burns puts steering away from alcohol as one of the key reasons why he was able to play club football until he was 52, even though his wife told him ‘You need to knock that on the head’ after that final run-out.

During his interview, O’Rourke raised with Jarlath Burns the notion that some clubs may struggle to field players as many are out drinking too much, the night before. Burns replied:

“The difficulty is not so much people drinking before matches. It’s the drink bans. I’m totally against drink bans. Because what happens is lads go off drink for five or six weeks, or maybe three, four months and when it’s all over they go on a big binge. It’s binge drinking that’s the big problem.

“If we could have a culture where lads can have a few glasses of wine, or go out for a night and maybe have a few too many, so what? That’s ok, that’s part of enjoying alcohol. I have a serious issue with drink bans.”

Jarlath Burns
Jarlath Burns spoke to Sean O’Rourke about GAA drinking bans. (Credit: Sportsfile)

Marc Ó Sé stance on drinking ban lines up with Jarlath Burns

Back in 2018, when Tipperary All-Ireland winner Kieran Bergin told The GAA Hour that no other sport is asking players to abstain for months without alcohol, former Kerry defender Marc Ó Sé weighed in on the matter. His thoughts line up closely with those of new GAA president, Jarlath Burns.

“I absolutely get the need to advise players on what to eat and how to refuel to ensure that your body is in the best shape to absorb the benefits of training, but the concept of a drink ban never sat well with me,” wrote Ó Sé, in the Irish Mail on Sunday.

“That is not in any way making light of an alcohol culture in this country, one which is not healthy, but I just never saw the point in a ban being put in place just for the sake of it.

“The reality is that if you are serious about your game you are never going to abuse yourself in that way, but going for a couple of pints with your friends is a way of unwinding. And if you can’t control your downtime then it is easy to understand why players would begin to resent their existence.

“The bottom line is that you have to trust your players to have the same ambition and desire to get the job done, while respecting that they have lives to live. That is no snowflake approach, just the common sense belief that if a player is happy in his head, enjoying his life on and off the field, then he is going to be in a far better place with his game.”

Well said, and written, by both men.

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