Ryan Wylie is one of the many top-level stars that will be on display in this year’s Sigerson Cup.
The Monaghan corner-back was nominated for GAA Young Player of the Year award in 2015 after a fantastic year with Monaghan as his team won the Ulster Championship.
At intervarsity level, he is captain of a strong UCD team that includes Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion.
We spoke to Ryan about the season ahead.
Q: How well do you feel your team is prepared for the competition?
We are going well. We had a good league campaign but we are not getting ahead of ourselves. Teams take the Sigerson more seriously than the league. We can’t afford to stay still and we have to keep improving.
Q: Who do you see as your main rivals?
Our first game is against Galway or Trinity so they are our biggest rivals at the minute. We can’t really look past that first game, it takes all of our focus now.
Q: Do you think that UCD should be seen as the favourites after their Ryan Cup win?
People have called us favourites and players have been missing from teams for different circumstances. So you can’t get a true understanding through the league. We’ll take one game at a time and hopefully by the end of it we will have a cup.
Q: How important is the Sigerson Cup to player development?
I think college football is very important for player development. When I went to UCD, I was told go to training and make friends and when you look back, it is probably the most important thing about college football. A lot of my friends in college are through my time playing Fresher’s football. And I’m sure when I leave college, I will remember that the most. You can also learn from top players from other counties, the way they play, the different attitudes that they bring to their game.
Q: After a lot of success in the Ulster Championship, what do you think that Monaghan need to do in order to move onto the next level?
It is hard to fingerpick one thing that will enable us to jump to the next level. We had a couple of great years there with Monaghan and Malachy has looked a few new players in the McKenna Cup. Hopefully that will give freshness to the whole team and elevate us.
Q: What is it like to play with your brother, Drew, at county level?
Maybe looking back in a few years I will appreciate it more but at the minute he’s just another team mate. The novelty at this stage will have worn off. It’s obviously great to have your brother there but as the case of any other teammate; you just hope that he’ll perform his best for the team.
Q: Who has been the biggest influence in your sporting life?
My family have been a big influence. My mother and father primarily have been a great help. Also, my next door neighbours – the Finlays. The Finlays have been a big influence in all of our careers, especially Kieran who passed away. When I play for Monaghan, Paul looks out for me and gives me advice.
Q: What are you studying in college?
Q: Do you find it hard to juggle between college study and football?
It’s tough enough but the main thing is just to plan at the start of the week what you have got on. You need to map out how you can fit in study and where you have to fit in your gym and training sessions. You have to give equal time for everything. You need to have your down time as well, which can be tough to fit in sometimes.
Q: What are your ambitions for the future?
My ambitions are to win the Sigerson short-term, taking it one game at a time. Then, to have more success with Monaghan. I have been lucky enough to get to two Ulster Finals already. My ambition in club football to try to catch up with Scotstown. They are the benchmark at the minute. While you play football to enjoy it, it is also important to be successful at the same time.
Q: Do you think that player burnout is an issue and what do you think of calls to change the u21 Football Championship?
Personally, I think the u21 Championship should stay. It is a busy schedule and sometimes you find it hard to fit everything in. But if you have good communication between managers of different teams, it is a lot easier. A lot of player burnout is to do with the mental side of the game. It is easy to let everything get on top of you but you have to stay one step ahead. Usually if you feel tired, you just push through it but if you don’t feel up to it, you shouldn’t be afraid to tell a manager.