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'Lads saying "In my day we did it"? Bullshit, that's just not good enough anymore'

Bressie recognises that commitment levels in the GAA are higher than ever before.

Source: The42.ie/YouTube

IRELAND’S GAA COMMUNITY still needs to cut some old-school ‘bullshit’ to properly protect young players’ wellbeing, according to Niall Breslin.

Bressie, a former Westmeath minor footballer and Leinster rugby player, believes that there needs to be a new attitude to reflect the increasing pressures and demands on inter-county minors.

GAA bosses have taken steps to address player burnout and voted this year to restrict minor competitions to U17s from 2018 onwards.

It is hoped that change will ease the burden on teenagers juggling their Leaving Cert studies and inter-county commitments.

Balancing top-level sport with jobs, education and a social life is putting a serious strain on a lot of young stars, Bressie told The42.

“Is that 18-year-old studying physiotherapy in UCD getting on a train on a Tuesday afternoon to get to Donegal? And getting back on the next morning like a zombie after getting his arse run off him on the training pitch? We’ve got to look at that and how could that affect the person.

“All this bullshit you hear from the lads in the GAA ‘In my day we did it’. Bullshit. That’s just not good enough anymore. Look after the individual. Look after the human being and Gaelic football will thrive.”

Bressie admitted that it was a professional rugby contract and university scholarship that lured him away from his preferred Gaelic football, but he also concedes that the GAA going professional isn’t “a black and white” debate.

“For all intents and purposes it is professional. They train as hard as any professional rugby player I know. They train as hard as most professional athletes I know. But, they don’t have the support structures and systems in place because it’s still an amateur sport.”

Bressie reckons that the wellness programs of the Gaelic Players’ Association are tackling the issues at hand, and their attitude of “treating athletes not like lads who score points” but instead as “human beings” is the key to getting the most out of players.

“If we keep going down that road, and keep promoting that, I think the need to go professional might become less.

“If we start looking after the welfare of the individual the teams will improve.”

Bressie’s professional rugby career with Leinster was heavily affected by injury, which contributed to his mental health difficulties, something he speaks a lot about in public.

He reckons that knowing your body’s capabilities from a young age could help prevent injuries down the line.

“I think over-training is probably the biggest mistake. Being given the education at that age to know that the best form of training is the ability to know how to rest.

“Take the days off. Don’t go on the beer, don’t go running around with your friends. Sit on your arse and watch Netflix. Let your body chill out and it will give you so much more in return.”

 – Bressie was speaking as an ambassador for Electric Ireland, whose research has found that 94% of Irish people believe playing sport positively impacts a person’s life.

Source: Electric Ireland/YouTube

About the author:

Eoin Lúc Ó Ceallaigh

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