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'I don't think it's a huge issue for us' - Cork star on GAA's binge-drinking culture

Darragh Fitzgibbon says the Cork hurlers have a sensible attitude in relation to alcohol.

CORK HURLER DARRAGH Fitzgibbon says alcohol is not “a huge issue” for the Rebels, despite research claiming inter-county players drink excessively during the off-season.

darragh-fitzgibbon Cork hurling star Darragh Fitzgibbon. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) report on player welfare among GAA players has found that players drink less than men of the same age generally do, but engage in “potentially hazardous drinking” during the off-season. 

The research also revealed there was “substantial variation” across the season with GAA players much more likely to drink during the off-season and pre-season.

Fitzgibbon, who is heading into his fourth season with the Cork seniors, says he has not encountered problems in relation to alcohol during his time on the squad.

“I can only speak in terms of the Cork panel and I don’t think it’s a huge issue for us regarding alcohol,” Fitzgibbon told The42 when asked if he has witnessed a binge-drinking culture in the GAA. 

“We don’t even have drinking bans put in place.

Fellas know that when you’re training, you don’t drink. It’s never really an issue or spoken about in the Cork side of things so I don’t find any issue.”

The ESRI study also found male inter-county players are far more likely to have a university degree than other men at the same age, with one in four of them choosing a career path that accommodates their GAA commitments.

Fitzgibbon is currently studying Arts in UCC, and is entering his final year with a view to pursuing a career in teaching. The teaching profession is regarded as one of the jobs that is easy to combine with playing at inter-county level. 

“I always wanted to be a teacher,” says the 21-year-old Charleville player when asked if he factored in his Cork hurling duties when making decisions about his future. 

darragh-fitzgibbon Fitzgibbon in action for Cork in the 2019 Munster SHC. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“When I was doing my Leaving Cert, I wanted to be a Primary School teacher but I didn’t get the points so I went to UCC to do Arts.

For me, I wouldn’t have picked my course to base it around hurling when I always wanted to be a teacher, but teaching is hugely beneficial for your hurling career when you’ve the whole summer off.

“I haven’t really experienced the working world yet because it’s a bit easier for me going to college and going training but it’s hugely time-committing.”

The Cork hurlers will go into the 2020 season with a familiar face at the helm, with Kieran Kingston making a return two years after stepping down. 

Fitzgibbon earned his senior championship debut with Cork under Kingston, and is looking forward to joining forces with him again.

“It’s great to have him back. He came back with us because he has a real belief that we can reach the potential of hopefully winning an All-Ireland within the next couple of years. I suppose he threw me in at the deep end back in 2017, giving me my championship debut.

“I suppose we have a good relationship in terms of that. As a group, we’re happy he came back because of that belief he has in us.”

Remarking on Cork’s All-Ireland quarter-final exit against Kilkenny and their ambitions for the season ahead, Fitzgibbon added:

“I suppose the last three years, we’ve gotten to Croke Park and haven’t really got over the line there. We felt we were in a good position coming in third place last year [2019]. 

“Patrick Horgan was incredible and the 14 of us were below average. Everyone needs to be going well against Kilkenny. It’s been a long couple of months going over that with a lot of regrets. We’re just looking forward to going back training.”

Darragh Fitzgibbon was speaking at the launch of the 2020 Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon, Sigerson and Higher Education Championships.

Electric Ireland’s First Class Rivals platform in 2020 aims to celebrate the unexpected alliances formed when County rivals, united by their college, come and play together in pursuit of one common goal.

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