Westmeath’s John Heslin sets ‘goals’ on time management

John Heslin is used to keeping several balls in the air. The well-known Westmeath senior footballer runs the family suckler farm in Mullingar, in partnership with his father, Peter.

He works off-farm, employed by Teagasc in Grange, where he looks after the Derrypatrick research and demonstration herd, and he is doing a PhD. He is also an Agri Aware ambassador.

The phrase ‘not enough hours’ springs to mind. “My father works off-farm as well, so it is a case of having the alarm set, and early mornings and late evenings. A lot of the big jobs are left until the weekend,” Heslin said. “Trying to do that in around football can be tough, but I’m lucky that there’s two of us on the farm.”

The Heslins have introduced a number of measures to optimise efficiency in recent years.

“We have put paddock systems in place for easier management of AI and herding,” Heslin explained.

“This time of the year is quieter than others. At the moment it’s about managing grassland and animal health. In February, cows are starting to calve and then you are straight into the breeding season. The first six months of the year are hectic and that often coincides with the championship.

“It’s a juggling act, trying to get as much work as possible done. You are also trying to get your nutrition right and get enough sleep because you can’t burn the candle at both ends. Nobody is making me do this – I want to do it,” said Heslin.

Having an understanding manager helps greatly. “The last manager, Tom Cribbin, was great. I couldn’t have asked for more understanding.

In the week leading up to the last championship game, a cow was calving and I couldn’t leave her as it was touch and go, and it’s not just about the monetary value but the welfare of the animals.

“It all ended well and I put up a picture on social media to prove it. Thankfully I don’t miss too many training sessions,” Heslin added.

GAA involves time and commitment, so what drives him to continue, with so many other demands in his schedule? “Everyone has their own thing they do to enjoy themselves. I love the fact that I can bring joy and inspiration to people,” said Heslin.

“Whether it’s the inspiration you can bring to a children’s birthday party, or the pride you can generate in your community when you win a game, it’s fantastic. There’s also the camarderie of being with your teammates. You get addicted to that buzz.

When you experience winning with your club or your county, in your local grounds or Croke Park, and see the effect it has on young and older people who paid in to see you play, it’s fantastic.

“This doesn’t last too long – soon it will be someone else’s turn – so I might as well enjoy it.”