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Joe Kernan: Hearty calls time but veterans still have a future

The decision taken at Congress to amend the square ball rule means that goalkeepers will not now be offered quite the same level of protection as that to which they have become accustomed in the past.

That though would not have been a particularly great concern to Paul Hearty had he decided to extend his Armagh career by another season.

Instead, the 34-year-old father of three has called time on his involvement with the county just when his enormous frame and physicality are required more than ever.

For the past number of years Hearty has not only been Armagh’s last line of defence but has also served as their first line of attack.

Like his recently retired colleague Steven McDonnell, Hearty owes Armagh football nothing.

He has represented the team with distinction and while he will now miss his first Ulster championship campaign for several years he will continue to retain his role at Crossmaglen Rangers goalkeeper.

Hearty is something of a character but he is also a deep thinker on the game, acutely conscious of defensive tactics and well capable of marshalling the defence in front of him.

Many GAA pundits and commentators are suggesting that in future players will not enjoy lengthy careers.

The current belief is that the demands of the modern game and the fact that many players now assume family responsibilities rather earlier in life mean that they cannot commit themselves to gaelic football for a decade or more.

This may be the case but I still believe that there are a number of players who continue to give unstintingly of themselves and who will be around for some years to come yet.

Here I am thinking of players like Benny Coulter Down), Barry Owens (Fermanagh), Paddy Bradley (Derry), Michael McCann (Antrim), Andy Mallon (Armagh) and Conor Gormley (Tyrone).

Like Paul Hearty, they have given a huge swathe of their lives to date to the GAA.

They and their long-serving colleagues deserve our respect and our admiration.

Belfast Telegraph