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Mahony: Time commitment means inter-county players will 'step away at an earlier age'

The 29-year-old announced his retirement earlier this month.

Former Waterford defender Philip Mahony.
Former Waterford defender Philip Mahony.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

RECENTLY RETIRED WATERFORD hurler Philip Mahony believes the commitment involved in the inter-county game will see more players retiring in their 20s. 

Mahony, who turned 29 earlier this month, made the surprising decision to call time on his career ahead of this campaign.

The Ballygunner defender spent a decade on the Deise panel and says the enjoyment wasn’t there over the past couple of seasons.

“I wasn’t enjoying it for a year or two,” he told GAANOWLive.

“In fairness to Liam (Cahill, Waterford manager) anytime I spoke to him he was very accommodating. A lot of people wouldn’t have an idea of the amount of effort and time that goes into the game, particularly over the last two or three years.

“I just found that tough to keep going with Waterford and then straight back into Ballygunner and then the reverse at the opposite end of the year.

“I probably didn’t get a break for a while. It’s probably going to get more frequent that people step away at an earlier age because of the commitment and the time and effort it takes.”

Travelling back from Dublin and Ballygunner’s extended club campaigns eventually took  a toll on Mahony, who won an Allianz Hurling League medal in 2015 and played in three Munster finals

“I’m 29 now. You’d swear I was 23 or 24 the way people were going on the last week or so,” he laughed. 

“Look I did it for a long time. I travelled up and down from Dublin. I just probably wasn’t enjoying it as much as I used to. With Ballygunner, the last number of years we’ve been going late in the season without any break and it’s a decision I made.

“It’s something I would have deliberated about a lot over the last two or three years. I spoke to a lot of people close to me and I think it was the right time to step away personally to do some other things.

waterfords-philip-mahony-and-clares-john-conlon-share-a-joke-at-the-end-of-the-game Mahony and Clare's John Conlon chat at the end of a league game. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

“Obviously, hopefully I’ll have a good few years left with Ballygunner but yeah I’ll miss it. I enjoyed it for a huge amount of years but it’s a decision I made and I’m happy with it. I’m sure the lads will be alright without me.”

Mahony is well placed to assess this weekend’s All-Ireland club hurling final, having played against Borris-Ileigh and Ballyhale Shamrocks in the past year. 

The Tipperary champions beat Ballygunner in December’s Munster final, while Ballyhale knocked them out in the last four of the All-Ireland series a year ago. 

“The day of the Munster final I never actually played against a team like it,” he says of Borris. 

“They were so direct and it was a poor enough day but they’ve a plan they seemed to have developed over a huge amount of games in the Tipp championship and they seemed to get better with every single game.

“They go long and direct down through the middle and they have two big men in the Kennys (Niall and Conor) and the likes of JD Devaney and Kevin Maher with a lot of pace and they try to get in and around. 

“It’s been well-documented the sweeper and how well they’ve worked on that and it’s tough to play against.”

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sean-mccormack-with-referee-johnny-murphy-and-philip-mahony Mahony at the coin toss ahead of the Munster final against Borris-Ileigh. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Remarking on Henry Shefflin’s side, he said: “When you’re playing Ballyhale the predicament is, say if you’re setting up with six backs, is that do you follow TJ out the field and leave space inside for Colin Fennelly and space in the scoring zone?

“That’s what we did in the All-Ireland semi-final last year and they would have got a lot of scores in that scoring zone.

“I think the way Borris-Ileigh set-up might actually suit playing Ballyhale because they probably will go tight on TJ but play with the luxury of playing in way all year where they have a sitting sweeper in front of the three in the full-forward line.

“But you stop Adrian Mullen, TJ and Colin Fennelly but you still have the likes of Eoin Reid who been an unbelievable player in the club game for the last 10 years plus. It is difficult but it’s not only the forwards, they’ve added a load of players in the past two or three years that have really improved them and arguably they’re better now than they ever were.

“It’s crazy to think they’re still there. I don’t think any team has won more All-Irelands. They’re nearly preparing for an All-Ireland final like it’s a county final at this stage. Coming into a game like Sunday with the experience they have on All-Ireland final day in Croke Park, like Corofin, it’s difficult to get that and that could shade it for them in the end.”

- Originally published at 12.15

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Kevin O'Brien

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