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'Is it going to a stage where it's going to hurt it? I think so, it's nearly getting too professional'

GPA President and former Galway hurling captain David Collins is worried about where the inter-county game is at.
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Updated at 09.35

FORMER GALWAY HURLING captain David Collins has voiced his concern at the increasing demands on the GAA’s inter-county players.

Through his work as President of the Gaelic Players Association (GPA), Collins regularly speaks with county footballers and hurlers. He believes the commitment levels for elite players are reaching breaking point.

“I see managers now nearly dogging people,” he said at the AIB All-Ireland club hurling semi-final media day. “There’s no need for it at the top inter-county level because they’re trained all year long.

“They don’t abuse the bodies, they’re in the gym, their diets are fantastic and they sleep right. There is that level of, where are we going in the GAA? Is it going to a stage where it’s going to actually hurt it? I think so.

“It’s nearly getting too professional and you don’t want to lose the amateur status. You can’t lose it because it’s not going to be sustainable.”

The 33-year-old retired from hurling with Galway at the end of 2016, but recently lined out at centre-back as Liam Mellows bridged a 47-year gap to claim the Galway SHC crown.

He believes the club game isn’t far off where inter-county was a few years ago.

“If you’ll allow me compare 2012 to now, inter-county to club hurling,” Collins continues.

“Club hurling is nearly what it was at inter-county level (back in 2012). The commitment required now for club is what it was in 2012.

“If it’s going that way, where is it going to stop? I do think there’s an awful lot of demand on players. I don’t see it being an older man’s game anymore. You’re going to be limited at 28, 29, 30 – that’s going to be your max age because of family and work commitments.

“They give the commitment for a couple of years, but align yourself with a career path when it does actually end. I finished up and it’s like falling off the end of a table where you just go ‘bang’ and you’re gone. You’re forgotten about.

“Which I was ready for, but certain players might not be. You literally are in there and you’re sucked into a zone. The next thing it’s all pulled from underneath you if you get dropped or injured, but if you’re ready to walk away fine.

“But if it does happen to you that you’re pulled, then where do you go? You really do need to be prepared. That’s one of my biggest fears. That’s why I’m involved with the GPA. I’ve been so recently in it that I see what players are committing and I see the levels of dedication.

“So I would be worried that players are over committed to it. It’s tough on them. A great game and they love it, and they put everything forward and that’s a real attribute to the players, especially in GAA.”

GPA chief executive Dermot Early announced his decision to step down from his role after less than a year in charge and return to his career in the army last week. Collins admits it “was a shock” to see the Kildare legend leave the organisation.

“I sit on the National Executive People and we’re regularly in touch with everybody on it.

“It was a shock to me. I was hoping he’d stay on for a couple of years so he might pave the way for me to go in there,” he laughs.

“His career in the army is what was driving him. He was never going to be outside the army because that career break was for one, three or five years.

“He was in it to see what he could do for the GPA and what he could do for players. Being a leader in the army and getting the career opportunity he has right now to go back, the best of luck to him and I wish him every success in it.

“Dermot was an incredible fella. I was sad to see him go because he had a great way about him. He’d a great way with people. He set in plan a strategic motion for the GPA in terms of getting out there and meeting players to see what the ground issues were.”

While he may be interested in becoming chief executive at some stage, Collins wouldn’t consider the role for a few years yet.

“That CEO needs to be a real leader, a person that’s out there, that drives for players. Whether that’s me or not, I’m not interested in it right now because I’m concentrating on medals in my own career.

“I’m possibly too young. There will be plenty of interest in it. If it comes knocking you wouldn’t say no.”

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