'You're living in a bubble and it's not reality. Your life is intoxicated by playing'

Waterford’s Noel Connors is the latest guest on Alan O’Mara’s Real Talks podcast.

Noel Connors.
Noel Connors.
Image: Lorraine OÕSullivan/INPHO

WATERFORD DEFENDER NOEL Connors clearly recalls the first time he had his first real taste of the big-time in Croke Park.

It was the 2009 All-Ireland semi-final, and Connors — now a two-time All-Star — was a fresh-faced 19-year-old and starting at corner back for the Déise.

It was his debut season in the senior fold. Connors had played minor hurling at 15, U21 at 17 and made the transition to senior the following year.

Davy Fitzgerald’s side were beaten by eventual champions Kilkenny on the day, but Connors had done what every player growing up strives to do — represent their county on the biggest stage the GAA has to offer.

Now 27, he’s at the ‘midpoint’ of his career, as he tells former Cavan goalkeeper Alan O’Mara on the latest Real Talks podcast.

It’s still thriving, so Connors admits that it’s sometimes hard to step away from ‘the bubble’ and reflect on what he’s done to date, like how it is for others in the same situation.

Richie Power and Noel Connors Connors in action on that day in 2009. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“We all dream of playing in Croke Park on All-Ireland final days and All-Ireland semi-final days,” he tells O’Mara. “I didn’t think it was going to happen that quick.

“You stand out the back of the house and tip around with your father and brother, and you’d be roaring and shouting, hitting the ball off the wall, saying you got the last point and you won the All-Ireland for Waterford.

“You don’t really dwell on it [your playing career] too much when you’re in it at the minute. When you’re discussing it now, it kind of sends shivers up your back to be perfectly honest

“At times when you’re playing at this level it’s very much like a cult. I don’t mean that in a negative sense. Your life is intoxicated by playing.

“Every moment of the day, you’re thinking about eating, drinking water, training, and how to get that extra per cent out of yourself and out of the lads around you.

“You’re living in a bubble and it’s actually not reality. You have to step outside of that at times, and reflect on it and realise how fortunate you are.”

Connors continues to speak about the amount of pressure players are put under in this day and age, and how the game has changed drastically through the years.

“At 18 or 19, the only thought that was going through my head was to get out on the field and do as best I could. There’s no real expectation on you, it’s just go out there and hurl.

Noel Connors 'Your life is intoxicated by playing.' Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“As players get older, they feel hamstrung by the pressure that’s put on them. They think they have to be lighting the place on fire every day rather than just doing their job. They get caught up in the complexity of trying to win matches on their own.

“I feel that we’ve gotten caught up in strength and conditioning, nutrition, psychology and recovery. The only thing that we’ve marginalised is actually playing and enjoying it.

“We play sport because we love it and enjoy it. We’ve lost sight of that. There’s a lot to be said about going to training and having the craic.

What are they
really like?

Rare insights on sport's biggest names from the writers who know them best. Listen to Behind the Lines podcast.

Become a Member

A deep thinker and PhD student, Connors also discusses how he’s found visiting life coaches helpful to find direction in his playing career, and life in general.

“A simple chat with someone who didn’t give a fiddlers about who I was, where I came from, what I was doing — to just sit back and talk about you as a person and map out where you’re going, that was one of the most valuable things I’ve done.

“Engage with people outside of the bubble. When you’re inside it, you’re inside it and can’t see outside of it. That’s not a negative thing, it’s just the way the environment is.

You can listen to the full interview by clicking on the link below:

Source: Real Talks/SoundCloud

The42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us!

John Mullane calls for inter-county managers to be paid a full wage – ‘It’s a full-time job’

Life begins at 40! Clare All-Ireland winner back for a 23rd season of club fare

About the author:

Emma Duffy

Read next: