One of Ireland’s top sports psychologists, Navan native, Alan Heary has told Meath Live that top level GAA players will be mentally ready to play again as soon as they get the green light from authority.
He claimed, ‘ It will be very much an individual decision for everyone, but if a player steps across the white line I guarantee you he will not hold back from contact once the whistle blows.’
The obvious reality of having to breach social distancing guidelines will not be a distraction according to Heary, who numbers world champion boxer Steve Collins and Olympic swimmer Nick O’Hare among those he has worked with.
‘Mentally the player will have made the decision, ‘I am going to play this game’, and will be solely focused on doing just that they will not allow any distractions to enter their heads once they have decided to play.’
Interestingly Heary also feels a return to action behind closed doors could see players who up to that point had been regarded as purely squad members push for a regular starting spot on inter county teams.
‘You will often find that a player can perform brilliantly in a training match when there are no spectators looking on and not be able to reproduce that level of display when there are thousands watching him, if he is playing a match with nobody there he’ll treat it the same as a training session and perform accordingly.
‘On the other side of that coin you’ll have players who need the big crowd and the sense of the big occasion to motivate them that little bit more who may see their performance drop because they are not performing in front of an audience.’
Another factor he believes may come into play is that individuals may take a step back from the group mentality associated with teams.
‘Usually there would be a number of players within a squad who would go along with what the group decides even if they had their doubts about it, but the situation that currently exists will allow those people to say ‘No I am not doing this I don’t feel comfortable with it’ and to do so without fear of being regarded as weak.
‘And there will be a number of players who will opt out, mark my words even if there is a protocol put in place by GAA hierarchy that allows games to resume, even behind closed doors, a lot of players won’t want to know.
‘However those who make the decision to play will be 100% mentally ready once the match starts.’