Former Donegal star Rory Kavanagh, who announced his inter-county retirement on Wednesday, has warned that football is getting too professional and that “it’s a game for young men” now.
In an interview on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, Kavanagh says that the pressure on older players, and a lack of recovery time, were important factors in his decision to retire from inter-country football, and suggested managers needed to adopt a different approach for younger and older players to address these issues.
“Teams will do anything to win the Championship,” Kavanagh said.
“The good teams are out training in December. The managers will do whatever they can to get the results.
“I don’t agree with it, but it’s the way things are going for teams up and down the country. The big thing for me is that players don’t get any recovery time, they have no time to rest.”
“It will drive people away from the game eventually if they don’t address this problem" - Rory Kavanagh
Coming in the wake of comments from Sunday Game analyst Joe Brolly about player welfare and an excessive amount of professionalism, Kavanagh’s intervention is another voice adding to the debate about whether inter-county football has lost its way.
“The game is getting too professional,” he said. “Dublin, Mayo, Kerry, Donegal, the standards are going up every year, to a professional level, yet we’re still amateur players.”
Kavanagh stopped short of saying that the level of preparation is taking away from the pleasure of playing, but did suggest it was no longer possible for players who have families or other responsibilities.
“I have really enjoyed playing for my county, and I think the other players are the same,” the St Eunan’s clubman said, after an inter-county career in which he represented Donegal 132 times and won an All-Ireland title in 2012.
“But this issue very important for the older players in their 30s. It’s a game for young men – the younger players who aren’t married, don’t have family ties, but it puts huge pressure on the older players.”
When asked what he thought the solution was, he suggested managers tailor their approach based on different needs of the players.
“I think that managers need to look at their panels, and have a different approach for the younger and older players. The older players need more recovery time.
“It will drive people away from the game eventually if they don’t address this problem. I know it’s something the GPA is looking at, and we need to get input from players.”
The GPA this week released its 2014 annual report, and GPA chief executive Farrell stressed the need for players to be supported, but rebutted Brolly’s comments about players putting their lives on hold because of excessive commitments required to play inter-county football.
On the issue of the 2014 All Ireland final against Kerry, Kavanagh admitted that he was still very sore about it, and that he couldn’t, as yet, bring himself to watch the match again.