Diary of a First Time Dad
Work brought us to the Mayo Senior team All-Ireland Final press night two weeks ago.
It was there we heard from Mayo midfielder Tom Parsons on the commitment involved in playing with Mayo, not just by the players themselves, but by those closest to them.
Parsons returned from Wales in 2014 in order to pursue his dream of making it back onto the Mayo team. It wasn’t just as simple as him coming home though.
His fiancée, Carol Hopkins, was in Cardiff with him, and she had her own career there too. She had to give that up so that Tom could return to Ireland and chase his dream.
She agreed, they both moved back to Dublin, and Parsons is now a regular member of the Mayo team – and, hopefully, within days of the ultimate dream for any Mayo footballer.
Carol made a phenomenal sacrifice to allow him to do this, and it is something parents involved in sport can only too readily appreciate.
There’s a handful of fathers on the Mayo senior team. Modern inter-county football is known as a single man’s game with good reason. It is a huge commitment for any young man with no ties. It is simply an incredible one for any man in a long-term relationship and with children.
I’m involved in helping out with the team in Achill this year. I wonder at times how Aisling keeps it together when I am at home at the weekends and have to head off to training or a game.
I won’t lie, I’m not as involved in football as I was before Frankie came along. I couldn’t be; if I was, Aisling would be entitled to a single parent allowance.
Family comes first, but I try to balance things as best I can with football. When you are a parent, time is something you have less and less of. And my involvement in football is in the ha’penny place compared to the Mayo footballers.
Fathers like Andy Moran, David Clarke, Aidan O’Shea and Brendan Harrison must have some serious energy reserves. Their families – partners and parents and siblings – must provide incredible support when you consider what is demanded of the Mayo players, between county and club teams, six days a week almost 52 weeks of the year.
As Tom Parsons said, you cannot compete at inter-county without the support of those around you.
We are all rooting for Mayo on September 17. But spare a thought in particular for those dads whose every waking hour must be consumed by being a parent, playing high-level football and trying to hold down a full-time job.
And, more so, for the loved ones in the background who make it possible.
A county should be very grateful to them all.
> In his fortnightly column, first-time-father Edwin McGreal chart the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.