5 reasons Gavin Duffy will be a valuable addition to the Mayo senior footballers

The ex-Connacht captain may be the wrong side of 30, but he’s still got what it takes to excel.

MAYO MANAGER JAMES Horan last night confirmed that he and his selectors were ‘having a look at’ ex-Connacht Rugby captain Gavin Duffy in training. And, by at least one account, he will have been impressed.

Most professional sportsmen in Ireland have, at one stage or another, tried their hand at the indigenous games, but few have gone back in their 30s as Duffy is attempting to do.

The jury will most likely be out on whether the Ballina man is a worthwhile addition to the panel until September, but here’s why we think it’ll all work out fine*.


We’re not talking about Martin Johnson slipping into a pair of Mikasa gloves here. By all accounts Duffy was a top class footballer.

Gavin Duffy Patrick Bolger / INPHO Patrick Bolger / INPHO / INPHO

Yes, that was in the 90s and, yes, minor success is no guarantee in later years, but there are certain skills that never leave you.

Good in the air

Speaking with last week (when Salthill-Knocknacarra was still the main focus of his potential future in GAA) the 32-year-old joked that he would be most suited as a ‘target man‘ in the full forward line.

Joking aside, though, he’s on to something. As a fullback in rugby, one of Duffy’s primary functions was to time his leap, claim possession from balls hoisted high into the air and recycle the ball to the next arriving team-mate.

Robin Copeland and Gavin Duffy compete for high ball 13/9/2013 Ben Evans / Huw Evans Agency Ben Evans / Huw Evans Agency / Huw Evans Agency

Show me a gaelic football team who couldn’t do with that in their arsenal and I’ll show you a team without ambition.


Our suspicion is that no other province would have had to make the tough decision to cut Duffy loose while he still had at least a year on the clock in the professional game.

With their personnel budget remaining static going into next season, Connacht had to assess Duffy along side Mils Muliaina and Robbie Henshaw as utility back options and they made a decision without room for sentiment.

Having started out this season as captain, that will hurt the Ballina man and he will be itching to prove that he still has plenty to offer in any code at any level.

Comfortable in contact

Did we mention Duffy was a rugby player? Keeping a cool head and delivering good passes while being taken out are instinctive qualities, not something you pick up after a few years of Championship experience.

Connacht's  Gavin Duffy Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

GAA setups have come on leaps and bounds in terms of strength and conditioning, but throwing a pro rugby player into that mix is a completely different animal.

The nature of machismo means that Duffy will be targeted in any game he plays, but at 6’2″ and 95 kgs he’ll be able to dust off the early blows and grow stronger while those around him fade.

Influence on and off the field

In last night’s official statement, Horan named Duffy a “professional athlete who brings great leadership and a presence to the squad.”

As with his physical presence above, having a full-time professional in and around the squad day in day out, can bring an extra level of inspiration and nous to a camp.

Many will point at some players potentially having their nose put out of joint by a ‘blow-in’, but the experience of a man who has won a European trophy, played in the World Cup and kicked an oval ball under pressure should be considered a valuable asset.

(*’Fine’ is not a guarantee of winning an All-Ireland.)

Gavin Duffy and 12 other rugby players who have GAA links

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