The vast majority of inter-county players consider themselves glad to have made the decision to commit to lining out for their county.
An Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) report commissioned by the GAA and the GPA revealed that while the demands on footballers and hurlers’ personal and work lives are considerable, they have positive experiences.
Players from the 2016 inter-county panels who responded to a survey said they could spend up to 31 hours a week on their Gaelic games commitments while they spent just over six hours on a pitch-based training day. The injury rate was higher among players getting seven or less hours’ sleep.
During the Championship, it was found players devoted an average of 7.9 hours to their professional lives on a pitch-based training day. Although, as a result, it was discovered to do so compromises had to be made in terms of personal relationships, sleep and general relaxation. The main reason players have for quitting the inter-county scene is focusing on their professional career.
"Because there is no official off-season, 40% of players claimed they did not have any time off Gaelic games. Training sessions on non-match weeks come in at just less than five times a week and almost four times a week on match weeks."
The ESRI report’s author Elish Kelly said the research “identified areas across health and well-being, professional career development and players’ personal lives”. In relation to inter-county players’ relationship with their clubs, it was stressed that “there may be grounds for considering a more systemised relationship between club and county management teams to minimise the time commitments and training loads on players”.
GPA chairman Seamus Hickey suggested the findings strengthen the players’ hand when they sit down with the GAA to discuss the next round of funding for “player support and related programmes” next year.
GAA president John Horan acknowledged the sacrifices made by inter-county players and highlighted the financial commitment the GAA have made in assisting player welfare, the €6.4 million invested last year and the €25m that was spent on preparing all inter-county teams.