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'Fellas in their 30s are thinking, 'This is what I have in front of me when county football does stop''

Donnchadh Walsh says GAA players should ‘take stock’ during the lockdown.

Ex-Kerry forward Donnchadh Walsh.
Ex-Kerry forward Donnchadh Walsh.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Updated May 4th 2020, 9:30 PM

FORMER KERRY FORWARD Donnchadh Walsh says the current lockdown is giving inter-county players a sample of what life will be like when they retire from the game.

Three-time All-Ireland winner Walsh, who called it quits from Kerry duty at the end of the 2018 season, believes players should use this time to think about aspects of their lives away from sport.

“This is the time – you’re no longer an inter-county footballer,” said Walsh on the GPA’s new podcast series The Players’ Voice.

“It is such a leveller now at the moment that you realise there are more important things than sport and inter-county football.

“It’s a time for fellas to take stock and see have they been putting enough time into those different areas of their lives that they need to fall back on now.

“Fellas are thinking, ‘Am I going to put on the jersey at all this year?’

“Maybe the fellas in their thirties are probably thinking, ‘This is what I have in front of me when inter-county football does stop’. And I bet you they’re reflecting on their transition out.

“In a way it could be helpful to the guys now that they might have this opportunity these few months to put in place a pathway for when football or hurling does come to an end for them.”

Lee Keegan admitted his surprise last week at how quickly football has fallen down his list of priorities, saying: “You have to think of everything in your own life. What is more important? We are amateur players at the end of it, obviously, my job at the moment is important, my loved ones at home are important, bits like that.

“It’s definitely been a huge culture change for myself personally, and it’s the same for every inter-county player, we are in such a bubble from the time we start pre-season until the time we finish up and even going into club it’s all football, football, football.”

And remarking on his experience of retirement, Walsh said cutting contact with his Kingdom team-mates was difficult.

“I knew that’s one thing that you can’t replace,” he stated. “It’s gone. You’ve to go cold turkey with that.

“There’s no other way of doing that. Once you’re out of the loop, once you’re out of the dressing room, once you’re out of the WhatsApp, you’re gone and I knew that.

“I didn’t want to know what was happening in Kerry training. I didn’t want to text any of the current players even on a side issue because I just don’t want to feel like they need to be telling me what’s happening.

“So, I knew that was going to be gone and yeah, that was hard.”

The Cromane clubman took steps prior to hanging up his boots that he believes helped ease the transition.

“I was thinking about my transition while still an inter-county player and that is the way I approached it. It helped to kind of soften the blow for when it did happen.

“When I joined the GPA Jim Madden Programme in 2015, that really kind of opened up my eyes to the kind of opportunities there are for me after inter-county football.

“That leadership programme really was excellent.

“It just opens your eyes to what opportunities there are, the community that’s around you as a GAA member, the connections you’ve made – the people that are only dying to bend over backwards to help you.

“So that for me was the real catalyst. As an inter-county player, maybe we’re very spoon-fed as in all our gym programmes, our training schedule, gear, food…everything was given to us, really.

“I needed to start taking my own initiative. So that was something that you have to prepare yourself for.”

Source: The Players Voice/SoundCloud

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Kevin O'Brien

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