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Mooney: GAA will continue to lose young stars if game stays amateur

COLLINGWOOD'S Caolan Mooney has said the GAA will continue to lose young players of the calibre of Dublin's Ciarán Kilkenny if the game remains an exclusively amateur sport.

The talented former Down footballer, who made his debut in this Aussie Rules season with the Pies, said the level of training required was unsustainable for players not being financially rewarded.

"It's at the point where you train professionally but you don't get any money for it," Mooney said.

"They bring in all these trainers who train the boys professionally and get paid but the players get nothing. They're just being used. It's far too much for an amateur sport. They're making a clean fortune out of the All-Ireland final, packing over 82,000 into Croke Park. Even championship games, they make a fortune.


"They're making heaps of money but where does it go? Senior players come home from work and then they have to go training. They might get some fuel money at the end of the month but that's the height of it. I think the GAA should start looking at it. They need to start paying their players instead of losing them."

The 19-year-old, who has been heralded as one of the most talented Irish recruits to the Australian Football League (AFL) in recent years, admitted he was 'sick' of playing Gaelic football by the time he left for Melbourne. "There came a stage where I was playing for four or more teams at a time and was training nearly every night and was getting sick of it.

"When I was playing school football, I would come straight from school to train with the club or county," said Mooney.

"I did that for two years and didn't get a break so I was like, 'I'm sick of this'. I got to the stage where I didn't even want to play Gaelic football anymore.

"You'd be so tired and there were days where you just could not be bothered. You just didn't want to be there. It's mentally draining. It just takes every bit of energy you have."

Mooney said making his debut for the Down senior side was one of the highlights of his time playing Gaelic football, but his highly anticipated first outing was ruined by a heavy playing schedule.


"I remember when I made my debut for Down seniors it was a Saturday and then I had to go and play for the club on Sunday.

"I made plans to go out with my sister and her boyfriend on the Sunday and meet friends for a few beers after. But I was falling asleep eating my food and just too shattered to go out.

"When it comes to that you start to think what am I even getting out of this?

"I just thought, the sooner I get out of here the better."

The former Gaelic footballer's move to AFL has already paid off.

While making his AFL debut was a dream come true, he's yet to fulfil another ambition -- playing alongside his fellow county man Martin Clarke for a whole game.

The pair have only had a matter of minutes on the field together as the Down duo alternated between the senior team and the reserves.

When both were selected in Round 21, Mooney went off with an ankle injury that effectively ended his season.

When he made his debut in Round 14, it was at the expense of Clarke who was omitted from the squad.

"We spend a lot of time together but we never really talk about footy.

"We do have a bit of a laugh about it though. He was saying (when I made debut), 'Oh, you're taking my place away', and I said, 'Well, there's nothing I can do about that'.

"We just have a laugh about it more than anything else.

"He had been wanting me to get in all year and I was looking forward to playing with him but it didn't happen like that.

"Hopefully we'll have more time on the field together next season."