It takes a special kind of player to impose himself in the demanding midfield sector when the heat is on in an All-Ireland final.
And it takes someone who possesses considerable courage and resolute mental strength to conduct a searing self-analysis when he feels he has strayed from the straight and narrow.
Conn Kilpatrick fits the bill on both counts and right now the Tyrone midfield strongman is in a more comfortable place having come to terms with a gambling addiction that had threatened to devastate his life.
It calls for a particularly strong brand of bravery for someone to admit that they had veered down a dubious path and when the Edendork clubman bared his soul in mid-week he was rapidly engulfed in a strong bond of empathy.
And that empathy was triggered by the realisation that honesty is the best policy when the chips are down.
There is no doubt that an addiction to gambling is very prevalent in Irish society just now and Conn’s revelations in relation to his own fall from grace in the eyes of his family, club and community will have resonance for many people who have been similarly afflicted.
The fact that people have seen for themselves a young sportsman going public with what is a heart-rending story has, from what I can gather at least, sparked an avalanche of self-reflection throughout the country.
Here is a prominent sportsman having just played the game of his life in the biggest occasion on the Irish sporting calendar reduced to a sad, desolate, lonely figure.
And yet his honesty, sincerity and charisma have already won him praise from all quarters.
Yes, sporting success will always be applauded but personal demons must be confronted if a person is to have any opportunity of living their life to the full.
I imagine if anyone had said to Conn three or four years ago that he would gain the status of national celebrity because of his sporting prowess, he might not have been able to see the wood for the trees such would have been his mental state then.
Gambling tends to create a cloud round every aspect of a person’s life and imprisons them in a vice-like grip.
Yet when you look at Conn today you see a person who has got his life together off the field of play and as a result of this things have started to happen for him on the field and by the looks of it they will continue to happen for him in this respect unless I am very much mistaken.
When he bared his soul on RTE, I texted him to express my admiration for his courage and honesty against what was undoubtedly an extremely difficult backdrop.
I know when I admitted my own addiction publicly I discovered from many other people that they had decided to replicate what they took to be my lead and they confided in me that they were relieved to have unburdened themselves.
To be absolutely candid, what occurs in a game is not nearly as important as to how a person conducts their life as it is this that defines him or her.
In the case of Conn, he has been weighed down by a problem in the past that has prevented him from living life to the full never mind fulfilling his dreams.
It caused problems not only for him and his family but for his friends as well. Sometimes people can undergo a personality change but Conn appears to have come out on the right side and he need have no inhibitions now about going forward positively.
The mental turbulence, lack of self-esteem and overall uncertainty are elements that I have encountered down through the years with rugby players, soccer players, cricketers, darts players and of course GAA personnel.
A recurring theme is that they don’t have the headspace to concentrate sufficiently on their sport because they are distracted by something that has morphed into an addiction.
Indeed, a lot of their focus tends to be away from the pitch so they are unable to do themselves justice.
But I honestly believe that the reverberations emanating from Conn’s disclosures will be felt around the country.
The timing is good because it will be a forcible reminder for people that addictive gambling has not gone away and that it still lurks not far from the surface in the lives of many.
By telling it like it is live on television, Conn has provided a beacon of comfort for those afflicted by addition of whatever form.
It is still a tremendous source of frustration to me that the GAA authorities do not appear to have settled on what we might regard as a fixed period in the overall calendar for Third Level Colleges’ fixtures.
I have aired this view in the past but to no avail. I am aware that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused havoc to the colleges fixtures but since most other elements of the GAA are back on track I thought that the colleges’ sector would be back on track by now.
But sot so, it would seem. Instead, GAA chiefs would appear to be looking for gaps into which they can insert these fixtures conveniently forgetting that the players involved are also wanted by their clubs and in the case of quite a few, their county.
Just how they are expected to serve three masters remains to be seen although I do accept that the split season in terms of club and county should provide a way out of the maze — or at least I hope it can.
While there has been a lot of discussion on the Third Level issue within the corridors of power, the fact of the matter as I see it is that nothing really has been solved.
We still find ourselves in the same situation as we did 18 months to two years ago when colleges’ football appeared to be the poor relation.
And yet it can provide highlights from time to time that give cause for optimism in relation to the GAA overall.
Such an occasion occurred when former Down manager Paddy Tally, against all the odds, steered St Mary’s University College to the coveted Sigerson Cup in 2017.
Three members of the Tyrone team that won the All-Ireland final last month — Conor Meyler, Cathal McShane and Kieran McGeary – were in that hugely successful St Mary’s side.
With Third Level action expected to commence shortly, I am particularly anxious that a structured fixtures programme is drawn up on the basis that players will not find themselves attempting to serve three masters.
The whole issue is hugely frustrating as far as I can see — indeed, in some quarters Third Level football is seen a dead duck.
I know that the Special Congress is looming but given that there is not the scope for adding further motions to what is an admittedly heavy agenda, I suspect that we might have to try and persevere with the situation such as it is.
Obviously the pandemic has been unhelpful to Third Level football in particular but I just hope that we might be able to turn the corner sooner rather than later in terms of acquiring a fixed window in the annual calendar.