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Saturday 30 August 2014

We don't need no education – sport pays enough

Published 24/12/2012 | 05:00

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THE wages earned by Irish soccer stars and golfers who make it to the top of their game are the reason why they, unlike GAA, rugby and boxing stars, don't have to worry themselves with university and third-level education.

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A prime example is West Bromwich Albion and Republic of Ireland striker Shane Long, who jacked in a promising hurling career in his native Tipperary to play soccer in England.

With a reputed salary of £40,000 (€49,000) a week according to one British newspaper, it is understandable that Long did not set his sights on a third-level qualifications after completing his secondary education at Scoil Ruain in Killenaule.

In contrast, their counterparts in amateur and lower-paid professional sports must instead try to cram a course or some sensible educational career steps somewhere along the way on their paths to sports glory.

World-beating athlete Katie Taylor has had to break off from her UCD degree to pursue the intensity of Olympic boxing gold while international rugby superstar Jonathan Sexton has stretched his UCD degree out over six years to make sure he can slot an education between the posts.

In second-level, Irish schools intensely glorify their sports stars, listing more of them on the alumni sections of their websites than any other type of past pupil. Some schools have become factories for their sports.

Take St Kieran's College in Kilkenny, which calls itself the "nursery for hurling." It has turned out Henry Shefflin, DJ Carey and Tommy Walsh, perhaps the greatest hurlers of their generations.

There are GAA football schools too. St Declan's in Dublin contributed to the great Dublin teams of both the 1970s with various batches of Brogans and another Dublin CBS, St Vincent's in Glasnevin contributed to the capital's football prospects with Sherlock, McCaffrey and Farrell.

St Jarlath's in Galway has also managed to turn out a long list of football stars.

In the realm of rugby, we have the fee-paying schools of Dublin (Blackrock for Brian O'Driscoll, St Mary's for Jonathan Sexton) compete with both fee-less (Ardscoil Ris for Paul O'Connell) and fee-paying (Pres Cork for Ronan O'Gara) rugby schools of Munster.

But when it comes to earning the big readies, the soccer players don't come from one school but from all over.

Richard Dunne is from Killinarden School, Robbie Keane from St Aidan's Community School and Kevin Doyle from Dermot Desmond's alma mater, Good Counsel in New Ross.

Irish Independent

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