At the end of 2018, Tomás Corrigan was frustrated with football so he went as far away from the GAA as he could.
In 2018, Tomas Corrigan decided he had had enough. The Fermanagh
player was working in Dublin, togging out for Fermanagh, and living
the life of a modern day footballer. But it all got too much for him.
He realised that he wasn’t living the life that he wanted. He took the
drastic measure of booking a trip to Mexico City, leaving his job and
his team mates behind.
“I was fed up with football, I was fed up in general. I was based in
Dublin and I had been travelling up and down the road for eight years.
So I just ran out of steam. I was exhausted and I felt like I needed
“So I booked a one way ticket to Mexico City, and I spent a year
travelling through Latin America, learning Spanish and taking a break
from it all.”
Perhaps an obvious question is why Mexico City, and why Latin America?
“Well I had always wanted to learn Spanish, and I had always wanted to
go travelling as well so I thought Mexico City is far enough away from
the GAA and everywhere, and to get away from it all.”
Corrigan’s plan was to start in Mexico and then travel down to
Argentina. “It was a great year and a great experience.”
Corrigan had been a key member of the Fermanagh team for a number of
years.He was part of the team that reached the 2018 Ulster final, but he
wasn’t a main stay. That fed into his decision to go.
“My form had dipped. The year we got to the Ulster final I was
struggling to make the team. I just wasn’t performing well at
training. And I wasn’t enjoying the experience of being on an
“Football had become a chore. To get to football training, because I
was based in Dublin, meant I had to leave work at four o’clock. Then
there’d be a three hour drive to get to training. I’d be tired after a
full days work and a three hour drive.
Then I’d have to train, not get home till 12, and then in to work the next day. That was my routine
for a couple of years from when I started working as a solicitor in
He was exhausted. The effort became overwhelming. He felt like he
should have been enjoying life, but couldn’t. That’s when he decided
that he needed a complete break from work, football, everything.
Corrigan said that there was a level of accepance about his decision
from those around him.
“People who were close to me probably realised that I needed the break.
“I am sure that people were shocked that a county player was taking a
break from the game. It is not really the done thing. You are kind of
expected to play all the time.
“But I looked to examples like Jamie Clarke, he took a year or two
away, and I said that this is something that I need to do.
“My managers were disappointed to lose a player. But by and large they
understood my decision.”
Stepping off the plane in Mexico City, Corrigan instantly realised
that he had made the right decision.
“It was a huge breath of fresh air. It’s hard to explain. When you are
growing up playing football, you kind of identify as the footballler.
Tomás Corrigan, the county footballer.
But when you go to Mexico City, no one knows what Gaelic Football is. So you are born again. You have
left that identity behind. You can start again. It’s a blank canvas.
It was good for my mental health. I learnt a lot about myself, about
This is perhaps an issue that other county players could identify
with, having to be defined by their footballing life. Though club
players may also feel the pressure to tog out. Certainly many county
players have went on record before about not having the freedoms that
non-players have, with the expectation upon them to give everything to
Corrigan said, the pressure for him, came from within.
“I put myself under a lot of pressure. You sort of imagine all these
things that people are going to say to you if you say that you need to
take a break.
“99 per cent of the time people will understand where you are coming
from. The pressure that you feel is as a result of your own thoughts.
What I would say to lads who feel that they have to play, they don’t.
You are not paid to play. There is so much more to playing football.”
He says that after his break, he is in a better place.
“I see football in a whole different light and a healthier light. I
don’t feel that I have to play, but I want to play. That’s a totally
different mindset. If you feel that you have to play then you won’t
enjoy it. But if you want to play, and you want to go to training then
you will enjoy it, then life is a lot easier.”
So Corrigan’s advice is that players must understand that they don’t
have to play football, and only continue to play if they enjoy it.
Getting that balance right is crucial.
“You have to make certain sacrifices in the other parts of your life,
work and relationships, but if you don’t have the balance right
between those elements then something will suffer.
“I hear the Dublin players talking about how Jim Gavin refers to
keeping all the plates spinning, and I like that analogy. You need to
keep each one right, when one collapses and they all will collapse.
That’s when you can suffer from anxiety or depression.”
This interview appeared on
Episode 20 of Take Your Points.
Go to GaelicLife.com/takeyourpoints
to watch the show.