GAA players are almost twice as likely to have a university degree compared to the general male population, a study has found.

A report by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) revealed 61% of players have a university degree, in contrast to 35% of other males of the same age.

However, most players struggled to balance the demands of studying and playing inter-county GAA and cited the length of the season as a factor.

The report used data from a survey of 2016 players and found that while one in four players chose a career path after second-level education that would allow them to play senior inter-county GAA, 40% of players would not select the same career path again.

Some players selected sectors with fewer working hours because of inter-county commitments, and as a result many experienced lower promotion prospects which affected their earnings.

Elish Kelly is lead author for the ESRI report

Almost nine out of ten players consume supplements and are recommended to do so, with many sourcing their supplements from outside the inter-county set-up.

Yet only half of players indicated that their supplement use is monitored within the team.

Players identified two key areas where they would like to receive more support: 'professional career' and ‘how to keep their inter-county participation in perspective’.

The issues they would most like to change about their inter-county experience would be a shortened season with fewer time commitments.

Elish Kelly, an ESRI researcher who is lead author of the report, said: "Unless the underlying drivers that are giving rise to the current inter-county commitment levels are identified and addressed, the knock-on effects identified in this study are likely to be amplified among future generations of players."

The report found that senior inter-county players consume a similar amount of alcohol compared to males of the same age.

However, they tend to consume higher quantities when they do drink, with almost nine out of ten players binge-drinking during the off-season.

Gaelic Players Association CEO Paul Flynn said: "As we strive for a modern form of sustainable amateurism where players understand the importance of their career outside of the game, and how to balance this with their inter-county commitments, this information is hugely beneficial. 

"The report also underlines the need for a robust range of player development supports from the GPA. 

"It shows us there is a growing need for more education and information for players about their roles and responsibilities as inter-county players, particularly around supplement usage and alcohol consumption."

GAA president John Horan said the report "will assist our approach to player welfare on and off the field".