Mayo ace can see bright 'Horizon' - on and off field
Off the Pitch: Alan Dillon
They say leadership is about unlocking people's potential to become better. For Alan Dillon, the task begins with himself.
As one of Mayo's most important leaders for the last 13 years, Dillon knows that you can never stop striving to improve, both on and off the field.
Dillon is not just a successful athlete. He's currently a senior validation engineer with Team Horizon, working in Allergan Pharmaceuticals, the world's largest supplier of Botox.
"It's a brilliant place to work," he explains. "Even though it's a huge multi-national it maintains a family feel to the place rather than a corporate environment."
Allergan is one of the largest employers in Mayo and it's an added bonus to Dillon that team-mates Aidan O'Shea, Barry Moran and Kevin Keane work within the facility also. As juggling a career and county commitments becomes increasingly precarious, it's refreshing to hear of a player balancing and progressing at both.
"I'm very lucky that I have a good company to work with that have given me a stable environment to do what I do in my career and also to play football at a highest level. I'm massively grateful for that."
There have been some career changes and breaks for Dillon, including travelling to Southeast Asia in the winter of 2009 with Conor Mortimer and a brief stint in teaching, but it wasn't to be for the ambitious Ballintubber man.
"I gave it a go for a while, but as a career choice it wouldn't have given me the opportunities I have now, so I'm glad I'm on the path I'm on."
There has been some "defining decisions", he says, along the way, and one of them was the decision to base himself in the west, close to MacHale Park and the club.
"A lot of county careers are being reduced due to increases in training loads and other factors, like travel.
"For me, I enjoy work, but I also enjoy football. And it's great that I don't have to sit in a car for three hours like many of the other lads."
Choosing to play at the highest level hasn't inhibited the 32-year-old's personal development - simultaneously pursuing avenues of self-improvement at every opportunity.
"I would have consciously decided that when I finished up playing I wanted to have a good education and not to be in a situation where I wouldn't have taken the opportunities that were there for me."
The term 'sacrifice' when referring to limitations put on the lives of our county players today, is one that doesn't sit well with him.
"Underlying all the pros and cons, you have a short inter-county career and, as a whole, I'm delighted where I am at present. I've had the opportunity to play the highest level for the last 13 or 14 seasons which not many people get, and it's not something I take for granted." True to form, the two-time All Star is still searching for ways to improve, and the GPA Madden Leadership Programme has given him a vehicle to do so.
"I was looking for some leadership management programme for the last while and I had looked at the MBA's, the GPA offer, but they weren't just right for me at present due to amount of time they consume," he says.
"The Madden Programme looked hugely impressive, especially with the delivery of the programme by Martin Kelly and the content and the quality of speakers. It has given me a completely different perspective of how leadership, in business and also in life, has evolved.
"I probably know from myself on the pitch I'd be more vocal and action -orientated, but there are so many other things that make leaders stand out and I've learnt so much about them.
"I'm really looking forward to the next few weeks to see how it evolves and how it develops me."
He adds: "You scrape away all your different personalities and your different opinions and you look at yourself objectively."
Even at this stage in his career, Dillon's enthusiasm and energy for football and all that goes with it is encapsulating. When asked what the future holds for him, his answer is typically candid and optimistic.
"As I've always done, at the end of 2015 I'll reflect and re-evaluate everything and plan for 2016. You have to do that on a constant basis. Hopefully we'll have a big year with Mayo and a big say on where Sam Maguire goes in 2015."
Whether you think leadership is learned or earned, Alan is doing both, just in case.
What I listen to: Chill upbeat vibes and house
The last book I read: ’The Last Season: A Team in Search of its Soul’, by Phil Jackson
Favourite sport other than GAA: Love F1 and soccer
What I love about football: The sense of excitement and achievement when coming through a hard-fought game.
What I hate about football: The injures can be soul-destroying
If I could change one thing about football: Shorten the season for the inter-county players/make sure there’s a master fixture list at club level that no changes can be made to during the year
My advice for young players: Enjoy football and ensure that you have a good life balance around football