Colm Cooper says demands on GAA players 'close to impossible'

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Colm Cooper

Kerry's eight-time All-Star Colm Cooper believes the demands on current young GAA inter-county players are becoming "close to impossible".

The Gooch's still-youthful appearance belies the fact that he began his Kerry senior career back in 2002.

However, Cooper, 30, is fearful that that the days of players extending inter-county careers to a dozen or more years could be drawing to a close.

"I don't know how long that can last," Cooper told BBC Sport Northern Ireland.

"The training is incredible. You've got teams training at seven o'clock in the morning and teams who might be doing two or three sessions a day.

"That is going on around the country and I know that for a fact.

"People have to combine jobs as well because this is not a professional sport.

"You then have fellows going on to a building site or the office or wherever it might and doing an eight-hour day. It's very hard to combine all that."

Cooper has sympathy for married players and especially the young emerging stars who are being faced with the demands of lining out for county teams as well as their clubs and in many cases, colleges.

"I am a single guy but I don't know how guys who are married manage to balance everything.

"It's becoming increasingly demanding. Teams are training as professional teams. There is no doubt about that.

"If it continues the way it is going, I would fear that players's careers will be shortened."

And while Cooper has concerns about the potential for player burnout, he acknowledges his doubts whether the GAA is going to be able to introduce any effective policies to redress the balance.

"It's difficult to police. They have tried to bring in (the closed period in the autumn) where there is the gap between training but it's very hard to do.

"I feel particularly sorry for the guys who are playing Sigerson Cup.

"If you are talking about a good 20 or 21-year-old, he could be playing under-21, Sigerson and senior with the county along with his club matches.

"I don't know how those guys balance that and you are probably risking burnout there."

Cooper, who was speaking after giving a talk to pupils at St Paul's High School in Bessbrook earlier this week, believes Donegal and Tyrone will be the main Ulster contenders for the Sam Maguire Cup in 2014.

"I think Donegal will come back strong this year because they are going to be disappointed how things finished against Mayo last year.

"With Jim McGuinness there, I think they are going to get things back on track and he has freshened up his management as well which will introduce a bit of spark into it.

"As far as Tyrone are concerned, Mickey Harte has done a fantastic job in terms of re-inventing them.

"They have lost so many established stars but they were still back in the semi-final again last year when nobody expected it.

"Ok...Mayo beat them but they are progressing nicely and with someone like Mickey in charge, they are always capable or pulling something out of the bag."

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