Joe Brolly reveals the worryin...

Football

Joe Brolly reveals the worrying state of burnout among young players in the GAA

Off The Ball
Off The Ball

12:31 8 Nov 2015


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Controversial GAA pundit Joe Brolly has heaped praise on the GAA Director General Páraic Duffy for composing a document which outlines a number of proposals that strive to curb the dangerous impact of burnout on young players.

Among the recommendations penned by Duffy include, the abolition of the U21 inter-county football championship, the introduction of extra-time for every senior championship fixture in the event of a draw, and for the U18 age cap to be replaced with U17 in the minor championship.

Reacting to this document in the Sunday Independent, Brolly has lauded Duffy as one of the few people from the upper echelons of the GAA hierarchy willing to undertake this project and start a dialogue that could lead to drastic changes in the GAA.

But, more worryingly, Brolly explains why Duffy's proposed measures are so important for the welfare of GAA players in the 17-21 age bracket.

According to Brolly, some physios and coaching officers have actually withdrawn their services from team set-ups due to what they believe to be, a blatant disregard for the physical health of the players.

One of those medical officials, Martin Loughran, told Brolly:

'In 10 to 15 years' times there will be an epidemic of serious long-term injuries. Players will retire early. They will suffer arthritis in the knees and hips. Many will find themselves seriously immobilised and in constant pain.'

Brolly goes on to ream off a litany of other cases which demonstrate the devastating effect of over-training. He explains how 16 of the Kildare senior county squad have undergone surgery for 'hip, groin and knee' injuries. He also references the former Irish Rugby coach Mike McGurn who told Brolly that according to Joe Schmidt, 'Most inter-county teams have a bigger training load than the All Blacks.'

One of the more divisive aspects of the 'Player Overtraining and Burnout and the GAA Fixtures Calendar' document refers to the discontinuation of the U21 competition. The purists argue that the U21 competition is crucial for weaning minor players into the senior grade. And if the U18 minor age limit is replaced by U17, the gap will be marginally wider, which could ultimately bread disinterest, and thus lead to an increased rate of players quitting the game at a younger age.

Brolly however, identifies the '17-21 age-grouping as an injury minefield,' and also points out that an obsessive attitude to GAA, has compelled some players to select college courses that allows them to invest more of their time in sport.

'As Gaelic football has become an all-consuming obsession, the newer universities in particular have made it a flag-waver for recruitment. A good footballer can get his fees paid, digs, even a car, just so he can play football. It is only a matter of time before degree courses in flower-arranging are available to All-Stars.'

The 'Player Overtraining and Burnout and the GAA Fixtures Calendar' has been circulated to county boards for discussion, and will be considered at congress next year.

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