I began playing Gaelic football and hurling at a young age and have been very fortunate to represent my club and county in both codes.
My club, James Stephens, is a dual club based in Kilkenny city. Growing up as kids we were all encouraged to play both codes and the soccer scene was also strong in the city.
Contrary to what many people outside the county might think there was no real pressure to choose hurling over Gaelic football or soccer, at least I never felt it. However, growing up, we were surrounded by hurling tradition and our role models would have been invariably from a hurling pedigree and I suppose to emulate those heroes meant focusing on the hurling.
I first represented Kilkenny on a hurling field at 16 years of age. Even back then the training and dedication required to compete at that level led to other sports taking a bit of a backseat for most of the year. It was probably a slow, natural progression in to playing just the one sport but we did play our football championship early in the year and I was very fortunate to win 4 senior football championships with James Stephens.
I saw recently where a soccer coach in Carlow had asked players at U16 level to focus solely on their soccer and give up other sports. It would seem at the level they are competing at, that that level of commitment is what is required.
It is great for children to experience a number of different sports but from my personal sporting career, as you move up the levels, the time comes where you have to choose to pursue one over the others.
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The deciding factor in this is the level of competition you reach.
If you are playing inter county football or hurling or league of Ireland soccer there can be very little time for anything else and once you reach a certain level playing different sports becomes a limiting factor on how much you can achieve.
As a wise Kilkenny man once said
“An hour with a football is an hour without a hurl”