Former Cork City star Karl Sheppard would do it differently now

Former Cork City star Karl Sheppard would do it differently now

Karl Sheppard, Cork City, in action against Sam Oji, Galway United. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/SPORTSFILE

FORMER Cork City player Karl Sheppard believes that wages in the League of Ireland do not match the sacrifices the players have to make. Sheppard, who had enjoyed a successful playing career before retiring in 2021, would go down a different playing route if he had his time again.

Most players are only paid for 42 weeks a year only and many on low wages.

“I don’t miss playing. I look back and think of how mentality draining being a footballer can be," Sheppard said.

"Of course there are enjoyable aspects of being a player but then there is the other side of being a player as well. 

"It’s not like players train or play a match and can go home and just switch off. That’s not how it works. You go home after games thinking about every little thing and you do have many sleepless nights. 

"Then there is also the criticism that you will inevitably receive as a player at some stage in your career. That can be difficult to deal with.

“I look at players playing now and think of all the sacrifices they make between missing social events, being told what to eat and what they can and can’t do away from the training ground. 

"They are travelling up and down the country and spend hours away from their family. Most of the players playing in the league are probably on less than minimum wage when you take into consideration the hours they do. 

"Then you can’t get a mortgage or anything like that when you are playing. These are meant to be the people at the top of their profession in the country yet their wage doesn’t represent that.

Cork City's Karl Sheppard celebrates a goal against Levadia Tallinn at Turner's Cross. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork City's Karl Sheppard celebrates a goal against Levadia Tallinn at Turner's Cross. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“I think the way UCD do things would probably be the route I would recommend to players if they are going to be still playing in the league at 18, 19 and 20. That is what I would do if I had my time back. 

"It's brilliant that a player can play in the league but be earning an education at the same time. At least then if you are around 24, you have your degree and you should know by that age whether you are going to play for a club in the UK and make a decent living from the game. 

"Otherwise, players are better getting a fulltime job because they will be paid better, they will be able to get a mortgage and they won’t have to make all of the sacrifices that players have to do.” 

Sheppard was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis during his playing days and the former Shamrock Rovers player admits that the disease did change him as a person towards the end of his playing career. However, since retirement, the pain has eased and Sheppard is able to enjoy his new life.

“I wasn’t the easiest person to be around in the latter stages of my career. I was always in pain and that just made me grumpy. 

"I’m a much happier person now and I’d like to think; more enjoyable to be around. I’ve gone from taking an injection every week during my playing days to having to take just one injection every three months. 

"Even now I can go out and have a meal or go to the cinema without having to leave early. It was a case that I would be with my partner and we would have to leave at the start of the film or just end up getting our food to go because I was just in too much pain. 

"People don’t see that side of the game. Of course, I wanted to train and play every time but it came at a cost. Now, I still try to keep fit but don’t overpush things. 

"I’m actually hoping to compete in the Dublin marathon this year. I don’t have any goal regarding time, just to complete it.

Karl Sheppard of Cork City is presented with the Man of the Match by manager John Caulfield after a win over Longford Town. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Karl Sheppard of Cork City is presented with the Man of the Match by manager John Caulfield after a win over Longford Town. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The 31-year-old was recently linked with the Athlone Town managerial job but nothing ever materialised. 

Although Sheppard was keen on the job he was never offered the role.

“I thought I was close to getting it at one stage. Ciaran Kilduff and I met the chairman. We were invited to watch a game. 

"It seemed all positive and felt like we would be offered the job as joint managers. But after that game; we were ghosted. 

"None of our calls were answered. We just never heard anything of it again after that. 

"That didn’t surprise me because Paul Doolin mentioned something about a lack of communication during his time there as well.”

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