Kerry star Fionn Fitzgerald on how one's birth date affects elite athletes' progress

The 25-year-old discusses his research into Relative Age Effect in GAA and beyond on Off The Ball

Kerry, Fionn Fitzgerald,

Fionn Fitzgerald of Kerry after the All Ireland final ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Fionn Fitzgerald might have one eye on this year's All-Ireland championship with Kerry, but the inter-county star has also got an eye on some interesting research that he's involved in.

Tonight, the 25-year-old joined Off The Ball to talk about his study into Relative Age Effect, which he presented at a recent GAA Coaching Conference.

Relative Age Effect is a phenomenon that suggests that elite athletes are more likely to be born in the first three months after the eligibility cut-off date for a particular age group in sports.

This was something that is also apparent in studies into football career trajectories and Fitzgerald has looked into the phenomenon as it applies to Gaelic football and hurling, including a straw poll in the Kerry senior setup.

"After training one evening, I got everyone's dates of birth and I did look at the distribution of dates of birth over the course of the year in the Kerry football team and what I did find was that about 63% were born in the first half of the year and 37% in the second half of the year. There was no major science involved in that part," he said, adding that the findings are "fairly black and white" when the GAA is studied as a whole.

On the wider study which looked into the date of births of 15 counties with a sample size of over 2,000 participants,"what we found was, statistically speaking, there's nearly 31% born in the first quarter of the year as opposed to 17% in the second quarter - so almost twice more likely to make it in an elite team or a development squad if you're born in the first quarter than the second quarter."

All of which led to a question for Fitzgerald: "'Is everyone getting a fair chance?' was the actual title of my presentation in the conference and basically adolescent to adult, is it a level playing field? Is this affecting the overall standards of our game?"

Listen to the full interview with Fitzgerald via the podcast player.