Sinead Kissane: County buzz drives Corrigan to conquer hectic schedule
The life of an inter-county GAA player can be split into what a player does when no-one is watching and what a player does when everyone is watching.
What Fermanagh forward Tomás Corrigan did when everyone was watching last summer was celebrate scoring a goal against Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final when time was still ticking but the game was over as a contest. Fermanagh surprised many by making it to the last eight in the championship.
But Corrigan still got some stick for his celebration and the team was also criticised for enjoying the occasion with their families and friends in Croke Park afterwards.
What few realise is what Corrigan does when no-one is watching. In January last year he started work as a trainee solicitor with a Dublin law firm. This kind of job doesn't lend itself to also living the life of an inter-county player but Corrigan is managing to make it work at the moment.
"When you're training to become a solicitor in a commercial law firm, you're expected to be in work until 7.30pm and that would be an early time to leave," Corrigan explains. "I'm in a department at the moment which makes it easier to manage your time and your work, whereas there are some departments you might be working until 10 or 11pm."
On Mondays, Corrigan may not get home until 10.30pm after work and a gym session. On Tuesdays, there's no such thing as a lunch break as he works through until 4pm so he can leave to drive to Fermanagh and make training for 7.30pm while keeping in touch with work via email. He's back in Dublin after midnight.
Wednesdays are recovery days with a massage after work. On Thursdays, it's a gym session after work and Corrigan finishes the week by driving back to Fermanagh after work for training on Fridays. Saturdays are rest days and on Sundays he either plays a match or trains. Every Monday, Corrigan does it all over again.
"It definitely affects your career because you have to give up so much of your time to training. It's the fact that the season is so long. The Gaelic season is just never-ending and that's the biggest problem," Corrigan, 25, said this week.
"I just take each week as it comes. I'm kind of afraid to sit down and have that think about how long I'm going to be able to do this. Like realistically, I'm not going to be able to do it for many more seasons. The longer you progress in your job, the more responsibility you're given."
What Corrigan did when everyone was watching last month was kick two frees from tight angles on the sideline within the space of a few minutes in Fermanagh's Ulster SFC win over Antrim. There weren't many watching when he kicked a free from a tighter angle in Fermanagh's win over Roscommon in last summer's qualifiers because it wasn't on TV. The ability to kick two consecutive tough frees comes from his belief in focusing on the next ball.
"A big thing that Pete (McGrath, Fermanagh manager) would always preach to us is to focus on the next ball, that's all I was thinking about and that's probably why I hit two in a row," Corrigan admits. "If I was admiring my great sideline the first time, I wouldn't have kicked the second one because my head would have been away with the fairies! So I just focused on the next kick and that's what a free-taker has to do."
Corrigan prepares himself mentally for those situations. He's currently reading The Pressure Principle: Handle Stress, Harness Energy and Perform When It Counts by Dave Alred who has worked with professional rugby union players like Jonny Wilkinson, Johnny Sexton and Ronan O'Gara. "Anyone can kick the ball over the bar when no-one's watching. It's the pressure situation, it's what your mental thoughts are at that moment that separates the good free-takers from the not so good ones," Corrigan says.
When Fermanagh play Donegal on Sunday, Corrigan will be watched by a man on the opposition sideline who Corrigan watched all his life growing up. When his father, Dominic, was manager of Fermanagh, Corrigan and his brother Ruairí got to hang around Rory Gallagher, who was the best Fermanagh player Corrigan ever saw play.
"When my dad was the manager, myself and Ruairí would have gone to every single Fermanagh game and all the training sessions. We would have been on the team bus going to away games and torturing the likes of Rory Gallagher when he was playing and kicking the balls out to him.
"Rory was a great lad, he would always have taken the time to chat to me and Ruairí. We were only 9 or 10 back then," Corrigan says. "Rory was smart, he could kick points and had great vision and was a great reader of the game. He's now taken that to management level."
Corrigan has had to be smart about his approach to training. When he started his new job in Dublin last year, he decided to train as if it was his last year and he's taken the same attitude this season. "There's days when you would just love to sling the gearbag out the window. But you train for days like this. That's the reason you put in all the hours and travel up the road for that buzz of representing your county."