Belfast Telegraph

Future bright for Tyrone with rising stars maturing in superb surroundings

By Declan Bogue

Walk into the Garvaghey complex, the Tyrone training ground, and you enter an environment that says everything about the evolution of Gaelic games.

Ten years ago when Mickey Harte took over as Red Hands senior manager, the players were told they would have to undertake a new-fangled concept of ice-baths after training.

This consisted of sitting inside a mortar tub filled with water while some support staff would tip in buckets of ice.

The idea behind it was to stimulate bloodflow in the legs, to drain away the lactic acid building inside their muscles.

Nowadays, on Wednesday nights when players have the option of taking the night off, most of the panel will come up to Garvaghey and sit in state-of-the-art icebaths with jets. They will alternate between the cold and hot baths.

There are foam rollers to self-massage the legs and muscles, with a variety of tread to achieve the desired effect.

There are long tables where management and players of the senior and minor panels can sit together to eat food prepared by a catering company.

On an octagon glass floor-to-ceiling tower inside the foyer (which looks suspiciously like the sort of contraption in which they might cryogenically freeze the next Peter Canavan), the names of 292 Garvaghey 'patrons' who have donated £5,000 each are printed.

Everything about it is excellent, but they don't like that 'centre of excellence' term, instead preferring 'centre of participation', with a strapline of "For the ordinary, the less ordinary and the extraordinary."

If a player is good enough to be selected for a Tyrone underage development squad, then he will be guided by coaches such as current senior selector Gavin Devlin, or former players John Lynch, Iggy Gallagher and Feargal Logan.

They will be given a USB stick that will track the type of training they do and measure their strength and conditioning progress, as well as giving them information on food and nutrition.

It's a big commitment for a teenager to devote themselves to, but think about what Tyrone are asking them for.

They are asking them not to smoke, not to drink. Not to vandalise their surroundings. Not to spend their evenings glued to a television or a computer.

In return they give them the best coaching available in the county, provide facilities that are perhaps second only to the professionals at Ulster Rugby, feed them and clothe them in top-quality sports gear.

They get to represent their clubs, their families and their county in front of big crowds.

They will grow a sense of camaraderie with their team mates. Their idea of teamwork will be highly developed and they will learn much about leadership skills, concentration and how important it is to lead a healthy life.

It's not a bad deal for anyone.

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