In Focus.....PJ Ward (Offaly)

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In Focus.....PJ Ward (Offaly)

Post  bald eagle on Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:27 pm

PJ Ward kindly agreed to be our first inter-county footballer subject for our new In Focus section. Questions were posed by the posters of Global GAA and here is the result of our Q&A with PJ, I'm sure you will find it very interesting -

What prompted/influenced your decision to seek an intercounty transfer from your native Westmeath to Offaly? (Bocerty)

When i was growing up I heard of the great Offaly 82 team and my Dad would tell me about some of the great players of that team, so when i was growing up i went to see Offaly play just as much as Westmeath as i would pretend i was Matt Connor of Offaly or Ger Heavin of Westmeath when playing in the back garden. My parents hailed from Ferbane and Clara and my uncle Frank played for the Offaly minors before emigrating to London, so it was always an ambition to have played for the two counties i grew up supporting. I was approached in 2003 to transfer to Offaly under Manager Paul O Kelly and i almost went but Paul was dismissed as manager a short time after so i felt the time wasnt right, but in November 2006 Pat Roe approached me and i felt it was the best time as i had started working in Tullamore and living in Offaly so it felt like the right time as i mightn't have had the opportunity to do so again.

Do you ever regret the decision, if you had to do things again would you do them any differently? (Bocerty)

With every decision i guess there is regrets as the first season or two it was difficult to fit in with different players especially when you come from a rival county and live within 1 mile of the border and some players who live on the opposite side of the Westmeath/Offaly border had issues but players who didnt live near were very welcoming. But in regards of regretting the decision to transfer to, no way it was a great honour to wear the tri-colour jersey of Offaly as was wearing the Westmeath and New York jersies.

Were you tempted in any way to transfer to another possibly more successful Leinster County? (Bocerty)

No i was never interested to play for any other counties and of course i wanted to be successful with a team and as a player but to have the privilegde to be able to train and to be able to pull a jersey on very sunday was the greatest achievment of all, to be able to enjoy every moment good or bad on the field.

What is your view on the Sean Johnston transfer issue? (Jonsmith)

I personally support Seanie in this situation, he's a very talented committed player who wants to played intercounty football and unfortunately for him and for some strange reason his own county isn't given him the opportunity to do so, so i think he is right to look elsewhere for the opportunity as a players career isn't that long to wait around for the next manager to come in and offer the opportunity he's looking for.

Do you think going outside of your county to play for another county because you were dropped is against the ethos of the GAA? (Jonsmith)

No, I think if your good enough and have the right attitude to play intercounty and your not given the opportunity as is in Seanie Johnstons case, i think players are right to make decisions like this regarding their playing careers once its a geniune case.

You were a member of the 2001 Compromise Rules U-17 squad; did you find the competition worthwhile? What are your thoughts on the AFLs recruiting of young Irish talent for their games, and what are your views on the players that leave to take up these offers? Similarly, what are you views on GAA managers putting pressure on their talented young players to reject these offers? (Bald Eagle)

Yes, i felt it was very worthwhile as you got a chance to measure yourself against players who train like professionals and who are about to receive professional contracts, also it was a great insight of knowledge regarding nutrition, strength and conditioning training from the young Aussies and to how their welfare was looked after compared to GAA players of the same age bracket.

I think its great that the AFL can look at GAA players and say “yes he can succeed as a professional in our sport” . I think players are right to have a go and see can they make it in the AFL because as an athlete you wake up everyday wanting to be a professional athlete and unfortunatley the GAA doesn't offer that opportunity so lads have a chance to fullfill dreams as being a professional player and do what they love doing everyday.

As regards managers putting pressure on players its really ridiculous as we have to also have to look at the economical situation in Ireland it hard for lads to keep jobs, get jobs and to have an intercounty career also, as a footballer or hurler its just like a second job so i think it should be left to the player to make the decision to hopefully better himself personally.

As a talented youth player, were you ever approached to attend trials at any of the AFL clubs? (Bald Eagle)

Yes I first took part in trials in DCU in dublin in 2000 after we had won the leinster minor championship with westmeath, I was then informed of clubs who were interested in me and I was scouted during the U-17 international rules by these clubs in April 2001, I was offered to attend 3 clubs Brisbane Lions, Melbourne Demons and collingwood for 2 weeks trials at each clubs, things were different back then not many irish guys got opportunities or made it except Tagdh Kennelly so I declined the offers to concentrate on GAA. I think clubs are now also better equipped to deal with young players making the change to the AFL and living in Australia now and if I was 17 or 18 again I'd definitely take the offers!!!!

In light of your own inter-county transfer and, that of other GAA players most notably the possible transfer of Seanie Johnston, do you think it fair that a player can easily transfer between one county and another? (Bocerty)

I think its fair if all the correct criteria is met,that the player is living and working within the county, for me when i transfered it was the fact that my parents qualified me to play for Offaly and i was working and living there, as in Seanie's case it appears he's all the criteria correct to proceed with his transfer as I read somewhere that he's “offered the Cavan County Board down to Strafford in Kildare where he's living for a cup of tea”!!!

Is it possible that we could in effect end up with some kind of ‘transfer’ market if transfers like these are permitted to happen, and that we in turn end up in a world of corruption, bungs and other incentives being offered to entice players to transfer and greed is the order of the day? (Bocerty)

I'd hope not as we do want to see our counties best players play for their counties but we have to also realise that players do need to seek employment in various parts of the country and the only option to have an intercounty career is to transfer. Also I think a proper transfer market would ruin our national games traditions and really weaken smaller counties and make the bigger ones more dominant.This is really evident in the dublin club championship country players being offered jobs and money to play for clubs in dublin which i think is unfair to small parishes down the country who struggle to get by with small panels.

PJ, as you played intercounty football for most of the last decade, I was wondering what, if any, were the biggest changes that you noticed during that time in terms of playing styles and/or preparation of teams. (Thomas Clarke, Bald Eagle)

I personally think the skills of the game are in decline, that there is way to much emphasis on physical training and i believe there is a lot of talented players who are skill full enough but lack the so called physical fitness to play intercounty football, for example we don't see players with the physique of Colm Corkery of Cork or Joe McNally of Dublin these where big skillfull player who lack mobilty, these were top players in the 80's 90's era but most managers these wouldn't have them on their panels because they wouldn't be able to run up and down the field all day unfortunately players are now judged on fitness rather than skill.

In terms of playing styles the Northern teams Tyrone and Armagh have really brought tactical awareness to the game after the turn of the millenium, before that i think most managers only knew about the third midfielder!!! They really up the game in terms of fitness, strength and condition and unfortunately to compete other teams had to follow but they can't be blamded for the defensive unattractive football we see today, they just done what worked for them and it was up to other counties to find a way to beat it. I think for an amateur sport the preparation for players is to demanding 25-40 hours extra per week upon your employment.The GAA really need to work with County Boards to come up with solutions to cuts these hours down to prevent burnout, mental exhaustion and to provide players a social life.

Can you see a decline in GAA players with the game shifting towards a more professional approach? (GAA Fan)

I'm not one who wants to see the game go professional but i wouldn't say there would be a decline i think because Ireland with a population approximate 4 million and approximate 500,000 playing football more players would be interested in playing the sport and it would improve the standard, as players would see it as a way to making a living.I feel there is more of a decline at present due to committments not only at intercounty level but club level to.Some club team now train almost as hard as some intercounty teams and the welfare of players isn't there meaning players lose interest and seek other sports or activities for socialising without worry or stress.

People go on about the impact playing for your county has on your life, what did the average GAA training week for you consist of in the build up to the Championship? (Bald Eagle)

The biggest and hardest part for me was dieting when the season started (seeing a friend eat a big cream bun and im there eating an apple very exciting stuff!!!!). I started a new job working in Dublin in 2008 and to meet the training regrime that was required i found myself training 3 times per day most days of the week and i was doing anywhere between 25-40 hours training per week. For Championship matches i had to use my annual leave at work to get rest the week of a championship game as my day started at 5 A.M and i wouldnt be getting to bed until 12 midnight after getting home from work and training.But for the Championship buzz I wouldn't change it for anything in the world.!!!

You obviously played with/against a lot of fine players over the years, but who would you single out as the best you played both with and against? (Thomas Clarke)

Tough question hard to single out one player for playing against as many players had different attributes of marking but for toughness definitely Francie Bellew but for overall skill and best man marker in the country John Keane of Westmeath hated marking him in training and club championship!!! I probably go with John Keane for the best player to play with he had a very serious committed attitude and really was the all round player.

In you capacity as both a club and county player, who was the best manager and/or coach you ever worked with? I won’t ask you to name the worst! (Bald Eagle)

This is an easy one!!! The best was Ambrose McGowan who was manager when we won the leinster minor championship he had great qualities and great man management skills i was disappointed not to see him go futher into management. Mmmm the worst how many can i name?!!! lol

Looking through your career you have had many successes, but what would you deem to be the greatest of these? (Bald Eagle)

Football as been very good to me throughout my life and I have been blessed to say that I got to play it at the highest level , weather it was playing in Croke Park or my local club pitch, winning the leinster championship, playing for Ireland, meeting guys I looked up to growing up or winning things with my club but being able to tog out on a sunday pulling a jersey over my head was the greatest success of all.

What, if anything, is your biggest regret from your playing career? (Thomas Clarke)

That it didn't last long enough and missing out on the leinster senior medal with westmeath in 2004 i had a double groin operation so i missed out on the panel that year so I emigrated to New York.

When you were forced to retire somewhat prematurely was there any assistance from the GAA in the aftermath of your decision, such as counseling etc.? (Bocerty)

Unfortunately I received no assistance from the GAA or GPA at any level wether it was due because of an incident at work and had no signifnance to them I was never informed but greatly disappointed as i never even recieved a phonecall from any county board offical OR GPA offical regarding anything.

As someone who was forced to retire much earlier than you would have liked what are your views on the GPA? (Bocerty)

I have very mixed emotions regarding the GPA i find them very pro the bigger teams and players and not doing enough to promote smaller counties, but saying that they also do good work trying to get players employment while also third level scholarships but my jury is still out wether they have the players best interests at heart.

In both football and hurling, Offaly were one of the most successful counties in the country in the 70s, 80s and 90s. They now seem to be struggling badly at both codes. What has gone wrong, and do you think that Offaly can again become a major force in either code? (Thomas Clarke)

Not with the current County Board in place as they haven't progessed to fund investment or welfare in the underage teams or preparation of either the senior football or hurling teams.When i compare the Offaly County Board to the Westmeath County Board the Offaly one is where Westmeath was in the late 90's early 00's. They have failed to move with the times and don't supply managers with enough funding to improve and prepare the teams.

Are you still involved in the GAA in any capacity, and do you have any plans to move into coaching/management? (Bocerty, Bald Eagle)

I hope to always be involved some way, its quiet difficult to be without playing football at just 28after playing it for 20 years and I'm involved coaching my club Shamrocks senior hurlers this season witch is all new to me as I haven't played hurling since I was 17 but so far I'm enjoying it the banter is great!!! But I'm also involved with a couple of different clubs also coaching football so hopefully I'll be involved in management in the coming years.


Last edited by bald eagle on Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:42 pm; edited 3 times in total

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Re: In Focus.....PJ Ward (Offaly)

Post  bald eagle on Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:33 pm

Folks, i would firstly like to say a massive thanks to PJ for agreeing to complete this Q&A session with us, he would have been well within his rights to ignore a request from a GAA forum, however he didn't and i must say he has given us some brilliant answers and a wonderful insight into the mind of an Inter-County GAA player. He has been a pleasure to deal with from start to finish and is just the same on Twitter, if you are on there then get following him on @PJWard14.

Thanks to you all for asking questions, not all were selected however as the numbers were too huge so we had to select the most relevant ones so apologies if yours is not on there.

Please let us know what you think of the interview, personally i think you asked some brilliant questions with PJ providing some great answers for us.

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Re: In Focus.....PJ Ward (Offaly)

Post  Parouisa on Thu Feb 09, 2012 3:01 pm

Excellent feature - great insight and a lot of honesty. Fair play PJ - many thanks.
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Re: In Focus.....PJ Ward (Offaly)

Post  Thomas Clarke on Thu Feb 09, 2012 3:11 pm

Great interview! Thanks to BE for facilitating, and huge thanks to PJ for the very interesting and detailed responses across a range of subjects. Really great stuff and thanks again PJ!
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Re: In Focus.....PJ Ward (Offaly)

Post  bald eagle on Thu Feb 09, 2012 3:50 pm

Unreal response so far to this in Twitterland, will try and retweet as many as i can but on the whole everyone is loving PJs honesty in the answers. Also the segment made a headline on the @GAA_BEO e-daily paper so top work to you all and PJ!

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Re: In Focus.....PJ Ward (Offaly)

Post  Parouisa on Thu Feb 09, 2012 4:02 pm

Well done too BE!
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Re: In Focus.....PJ Ward (Offaly)

Post  bocerty on Thu Feb 09, 2012 6:19 pm

great stuff BE congrats on a job really well done and thanks also to PJ for taking the time to respond to the questions. Havent read all the answers yet but those that i have, have been interesting to say the least.

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Re: In Focus.....PJ Ward (Offaly)

Post  Boxtyeater on Thu Feb 09, 2012 8:12 pm

This was my favourite one....

"When you were forced to retire like myself somewhat prematurely was there any assistance from the GAA in the aftermath of your decision, such as mortgage paid for a year, car loan cleared, a couple of grand comfort money etc.?" (Bocerty)

Jesus Boc you're a desperate man..... Embarassed

Well done to PJ and Bald Eagle. Interesting and informative stuff. Good questions as well folks.
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Re: In Focus.....PJ Ward (Offaly)

Post  RMDrive on Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:06 pm

That was brilliant. Fair play PJ - some top answers there.
And well done BE you legend!
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Re: In Focus.....PJ Ward (Offaly)

Post  bocerty on Thu Feb 09, 2012 10:46 pm

seems to be getting a fair bit of exposure on twitter - going by the bottom right of the screen

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Re: In Focus.....PJ Ward (Offaly)

Post  bald eagle on Fri Feb 10, 2012 2:27 pm

Yeah the response on Twitter has been brilliant, it has sure generated a lot of traffic to the site with the segment alone having nigh on 350 views in 24 hours and personally i think it is a quality read!

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Re: In Focus.....PJ Ward (Offaly)

Post  Parouisa on Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:59 pm

Obviously had a lot of readers alright ... but nobody signed up here Crying or Very sad
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Re: In Focus.....PJ Ward (Offaly)

Post  Boxtyeater on Sat Feb 11, 2012 1:47 am

Parouisa wrote:Obviously had a lot of readers alright ... but nobody signed up here Crying or Very sad

Here FFS .... In all honesty, having given credit where it's due, ......

Here, I'll set up one of these, with a NAME...

Not a twitter thing, but I'll ask BE how to work that....

Don't all call...
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Re: In Focus.....PJ Ward (Offaly)

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