Saturday 1 October 2016

'If there's a job in Dublin I'll not be applying for it'

Published 29/04/2015 | 02:30

Karl Lacy punches the air after Donegal’s semi-final win last year. Lacey is going the extra mile this year to make sure Donegal are back at the business end of the Championship under Rory Gallagher this season
Karl Lacy punches the air after Donegal’s semi-final win last year. Lacey is going the extra mile this year to make sure Donegal are back at the business end of the Championship under Rory Gallagher this season
Donegal manager Rory Gallagher

For the next few months Karl Lacey won't be turning the pages of the newspaper recruitment sections or scrolling through employment websites with any great vigour.

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He won't ignore them completely and if the right opportunity comes up on or close to his own Donegal doorstep then he'd be happy to pursue it.

But for the duration of the 2015 GAA season, however long that is for Donegal, Lacey will devote himself almost exclusively to Gaelic football. It is, he says, a departure that is becoming more common in the GAA.

Unpaid

Two years ago the then Kildare football captain Eamonn Callaghan described his decision to take three months' unpaid leave as a garda to aid his recovery from a series of groin injuries as a "no brainer."

In late 2013 Lacey's Donegal captain and colleague Michael Murphy opted to delay a return to college to do a masters in sports psychology in Queens because of the impact it would have on his football preparation.

For Lacey (30), a three-time All Star, the time seems right for him to take a step back and give his football every possible chance.

After two years commuting at least twice weekly from Dublin, where he was employed in Ulster Bank's headquarters, and a further year travelling home from Limerick, where he completed a masters in sports performance, Lacey is glad to drop his anchor for the summer.

"I just want to enjoy my football now for the next couple of months and I suppose live that lifestyle of a professional athlete," he says.

"I have days off and I get more time to recover and do my swimming pool stuff and my mobility work. I'm fresher going into training, which makes it more enjoyable."

The lifestyle change makes an "unbelievable" difference, he says.

"I only realise how much of a difference it makes now that I'm doing it," he explains.

"For me it was into the car, straight out of the car, into training, back into the car for another four hours. . . and you're just in bits the next day. The body doesn't recover.

"Whereas now you have the day to go to the swimming pool and do your recovery work. You're not rushing on the road.

"You're at home and you're cooking good meals for yourself - breakfast and lunch. You get your pre-training meal three hours beforehand you're not jumping in to grab a sandwich at the petrol station and eating it while you're driving.

"Things like that make a massive difference. I think it's becoming more popular. There are a few players that have kind of stepped back from employment to concentrate on it."

There is an obvious financial drawback but one Lacey is prepared to endure for now. He does some part-time work with Sky Sports on their 'Living for Sport' schools programme but that ends soon, and he has also been rolled out as a Kellogs Cul Camp ambassador.

"Financially you can't do it for the rest of your career, but I'm going to do it now for the next few months, get this year over me and hopefully pick up a bit of work after that," he says.

"I'm keeping my eye on jobs as well. There's nothing up around home at the moment. If there's a job in Dublin I'm not going to apply for it, because I just want to be at home now for the summer."

It is a personal choice he has made with the backing of his family.

"I have a wee boy (Noah)of eight months as well - I have to keep everything right. I have discussed it with my family and this is the right thing for me to do," he says.

"Football means so much to me. I have always given everything to it, whether I was at home or in Dublin or Limerick, and it's just a wee bit easier this way.

"I'm satisfied. If there was compensation coming in you would have a lot more players doing it and it's not going to be manageable.

"I don't know what way it is going to go with the GAA but it is something that is going to become a lot more popular with players. People are putting employment on the back seat, maybe putting college on hold for a year or two just to concentrate on their training. Maybe it might be something the GAA would look into."

Donegal's League campaign has been kind to Lacey: no injuries and a run of games that he hadn't been afforded for the previous two seasons.

"This year has been all guns blazing going in to every game and I have been fresh, I have recovered well after games and it's due to the fact that I have been home and living that kind of lifestyle where I have had a really heavy focus on my training and preparation," he says.

The management transition from Jim McGuinness to Rory Gallagher has been relatively seamless, McGuinness' decision last October not really surprising the former Footballer of the Year.

"People expect this big, massive change but Rory has been there for three years, he knows what our weaknesses are and he knows what we are good at," says Lacey.

"Tactically, he knows the style of football we want to play - to play to our strengths with certain wee tweaks here and there but there will be no massive changes to it."

He hasn't had any contact with McGuinness since his departure except for a couple of texts as his former manager continues to develop his career as a performance and now soccer coach. Lacey predicts big things on that front.

"Jim will go to the top if he really wants to," he says. "He's obviously thinking about management or coaching in the soccer clubs as he's doing his badges through the FAI.

"I never had the conversation with him about it. But I see he was in Saracens there as well, so he's opened huge doors for himself."

Lacey himself spent time as part of his studies with Arsenal, the team he devoutly supports and accepts he may eventually have to travel to find the work he is now qualified for.

Retirement was never a consideration for him, even if Donegal had beaten Kerry last September.

"I was always going to play. We'll see how this year goes now and take it from there," he says.

"There is a very good panel there now and there is a lot of new lads brought in, some of the other lads have gone and it's really fresh there at the moment."

Lacey admits they were "delighted" not be involved in Sunday's League final as it didn't suit their schedule.

"We probably would have lost two weeks' championship training," he explains.

Irish Independent

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