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What does Christmas looks like for an elite athlete?

With Christmas just one week away, many of us are wondering how we will juggle the time between f...

What does Christmas looks like...
Off The Ball Radio

What does Christmas looks like for an elite athlete?

With Christmas just one week away, many of us are wondering how we will juggle the time between feasting, relaxing, and what gifts have been left for us under the tree. 

For professional athletes however, Christmas time brings different pressures – with the festivities very much put on hold.

Speaking on OTB's Carlsberg Christmas Panel, former Republic of Ireland and Everton left-black Kevin Kilbane explained that the Christmas fixtures can make or break a season.

The Premier League schedule really puts players to the test over this period. From St Stephen's day and into the new year, Premier League teams can play up to ten games in the space of four weeks.

“We used to train every Christmas Day. If we had an away game on St Stephen’s day we would have trained in the evening around four or five o’clock. So we would have had a little bit of Christmas dinner at home, gone to training and gone on the team bus to where we were travelling to and stayed in a hotel" says Kilbane.

"If we had a home game, like [for instance] at Everton, David Moyes would have had us in in the morning. Start training around nine o’clock, then you would have had more or less the full day back at home with the family," says Kilbane.

"Most managers know themselves that you like to have a bit of time off with the family but realistically when you’re playing, your mind is on the game."


Alongside Kilbane was Republic of Ireland international and North Carolina Courage footballer Denise O'Sullivan. O'Sullivan explained that Christmas was just like any other working week – with fixtures coming thick and fast from the 26th onwards.

Family is a big thing for O'Sullivan – especially when she is the youngest of ten. But around Christmas, being abroad is definitely a challenge.

The Cork woman also spent a loan spell down-under with Canberra United – where Christmas is less snowmen and mulled wine – and more 'barbeques on the beach.

Surely that's a good problem though, right?

"In Australia, you’re waking up to 36-degree weather.  It doesn’t even feel like Christmas. It’s a great experience but obviously missing family was the main thing,” O'Sullivan says.

"I’m already thinking about pre-season in January. Which, in America, is pretty intense. So yeah it’s just about keeping fit and being ready to go back," O'Sullivan says.

A bit of craic is needed

Former Mayo footballer Andy Moran remembers the Christmas period as being a gruelling one. But also one where there was a little bit of leeway to go out with friends – before the start of a busy season.

“The two key dates were the 26th and the 27th. And everyone was just hoping that the weight session was put on St Stephens day and not the 27th," says Moran.  

“The giddiness that used to be in the gym on the 26th, people asking ‘where you going, what you doing?’. If training was ever put on the 27th, that was just evil," says Moran.

Now managing at Leitrim, Moran seems to understand that players need a bit of time to loosen up. In fact, he thinks it's actually needed from a morale point of view.

“The season starts at such a speed. It’s such a tricky time for intercounty players because you know what’s coming ahead and you know you need to be ready" says Moran

“But I think if you want that kind of respect, you need to have a bit of a Christmas,” says Moran.

“I remember as a player hearing the stories of people going out on Christmas night, and they’d almost keep you going for the next few weeks. I think that’s important within a group as well,” Moran concluded.

In association with Carlsberg. This Christmas more than ever will be about quality catch ups with family and friends. #CarlsbergChristmas.  Best Time of the Year? Probably.  You can also win a Carlsberg Christmas get together by heading over to (over 18s only). Get the Facts, Be Drink Aware, Visit 

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Andy Moran Carlsberg Christmas Denis O'Sullivan Kevin Kilbane