How does Dublin Footballer Cian O’Sullivan balance work and play?

Cian O'Sullivan
Cian O'Sullivan

Cian O’Sullivan is a self-professed creature of habit.

So when it comes to the challenge of juggling life with sport, adhering to a strict routine has its benefits.

In the world of inter-county Gaelic football O’Sullivan is a superstar. He plays for Dublin, the defending All-Ireland champions, and with three Celtic Crosses and six Leinster medals, he has already achieved more on the football pitch than the majority of players in the game.

When he’s not busy wearing the sky blue for Dublin he works as a tax accountant for PriceWaterhouse Cooper, the largest professional services firm in Ireland. It’s a high-pressured job, all the more so as just recently he was made a manager, bringing extra responsibility, but O’Sullivan has worked hard to get to that level and he is relishing the opportunity.

His working day starts just before 7am with breakfast at home. Along with porridge he will have a smoothie with mixed berries, an apple, a banana and coconut water. Nutrition is such a big part of playing Gaelic football at the top level and O’Sullivan puts huge emphasis on its importance.

Most mornings he will try to get into  the office for 8am, getting in a little bit earlier gives him a chance to get a start on what he needs to get done. Staying on top of his workload in this way also allows him the flexibility to leave early for training if needs be.

“I’ve had problems with injuries so I’m conscious that I’m not sitting at a desk for several hours straight,” says O’Sullivan, who nearly missed last year’s All-Ireland final against Kerry because of a hamstring injury. I make sure that I get off my seat and have a walk around the office, so my and the muscles around my hamstrings don’t tighten too much.”

Lunch for O’Sullivan differs depending on whether or not it’s a training day. If he has a session after work he will opt for meat, potatoes and two types of vegetables. If it’s a non-training day then it’s a super-food salad. PwC have a good canteen so that makes it easier for him to make the right choices.

Unsurprisingly there are times when he is at his desk and his mind drifts from work to sport because, along with his family and girlfriend, they are most important things in his life. He will think about training, his preparation and sometimes his performance. The commitment required to play the modern game isn’t just a couple of sessions a week, it’s now a lifestyle choice where everything has to gel to achieve optimum performance.

O’Sullivan made his debut for Dublin in 2009 and since then things have changed considerably, from developments in strength and conditioning to the introduction of nutrition and also the evolution of statistics.

“When I started out it the stats were real basic stuff, a guy would come to games with the programmes and record the number of wide balls or how many kick-outs were won. We use statistics a lot more now. Ray Boyne started working with us a few years ago and he has been constantly building on that work”, said O’Sullivan.

“It’s great to have a guy like that involved in our team, he can provide some really good meaningful information that we use to assess our performance. He helps set out our targets and standards for games and we use those statistics as a benchmark for achieving those standards. It is very good information.

“Guys always set their own personal targets, whether it’s wanting to get two blocks in a game or setting up three scores. It’s a tactic that I use, I always set my own individual targets before every game. I might say I want to get eight tackles in. It is hard to measure and keep track of that yourself but when you have the statistics guy keeping track for you it’s great bit of information to have and for the management team to have too.”

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Using cutting edge technology every moment a player comes into contact with a ball will be monitored - delivering a greater understanding of the in-match movement for GAA fans. Statistics are more and more becoming integral to how players train and analyse down to the last detail. They’re also fundamental in how we watch and enjoy GAA these days.

“I think Sure coming in as official statistics partner of the GAA is very positive. They are bringing this to the next level by really drilling down and bringing more sophisticated stats to the game. This will make it more interesting for fans, they will have things like number of turn-overs a player had and where the kick-outs landed. It should make for great viewing and great fodder for the pundits after the game.”

On a training day, O’Sullivan usually leaves work at 5.45pm and drives to Dublin training at DCU. However that doesn’t always mean that his work is done for the day, as he sometimes brings the laptop with him to catch up on emails. At 6.15pm he arrives at the training pitch to get ready for training.

“I’ll also spend time doing some foam rolling, Thera-Band stuff. It’s important to really fire up my glutes so that they are really switched on. I’m always focused on putting myself in a position where I’m going out on the pitch with all my muscles ready to go so that I’m reducing the injury risk.”

After the vital prehab work is done he’ll be on the pitch for seven when the session kicks off.  Then the squad will train for just over an hour and following that it’s a meeting and post-session meal of plenty of protein.

O’Sullivan makes it home for nine, and watches some television before going to bed for 10pm.

“I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones. I like to have some TV time when I get home; I don’t like the idea of getting up and being gone all day. Being constantly busy, coming home and going to bed. I like the idea of watching TV and switching off for about 45 minutes or a half hour.”

Giving over so much of his life to Gaelic football is a choice O’Sullivan has made and one he is happy with. After all, he has three All-Ireland medals and the value he puts on them speaks volumes.

To celebrate this first-of-its-kind partnership, Sure this article is part of a major new campaign, unlocking the stories behind the GAA’s Sure is the Official Statistics Partner of the GAA. To uncover the story Behind Every Move, visit Sure on Facebook.

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