Belfast Telegraph

You've to get up early in the morning to be a top county player these days

By Declan Bogue

He may be gone from the Dublin management team, but statistical analyst Ray Boyne continues to post up some intriguing stuff on Twitter under his handle @AnalysisGAA.

Since the middle of December he has been publishing the weekly schedule of what an elite GAA player might be expected to do. Along with diet plans, the type of training for each day is explained.

Breakfast might consist of cereal, poached eggs, brown bread, juice, yogurt and a litre of water. Lunch can be as exciting as chicken, vegetables and potatoes and for dinner you are looking at beef stir fry noodles and vegetables with a slice of brown bread.

Each day has a collective field session or gym appointment at 6.30am. The only 'day off' is Sunday, which isn't really a day off, given that you are expected to do some light aqua aerobics in the swimming pool.

Under a box headed priorities, it is noted that you should relax by doing Yoga on Friday. There is nothing relaxing about a Yoga session.

Christmas Day is a free day, although you will pay for any over-indulgence with a 10k run on St Stephen's Day. Nice touch.

The diet gets a little more difficult to source, with sword fish and baked tuna, while there is also another priority of 'giving back', which involves training the club under-12s. Relaxation includes a trip to the cinema and a read of Alan Quinlan's autobiography.

It sounds like purgatory. There is no mention of a Sunday night pizza, or the occasional night on the gargle. It is clear from examining these week-to-week guides that only the supremely dedicated and focused could fulfil them.

A few months back, ex-Armagh defender Enda McNulty was taking part in a panel discussion. As performance coach to the Leinster rugby team he had a unique perspective of how professional athletes managed the work/rest balance.

"I remember showing Shane Horgan my training diary," said McNulty. "There were weight sessions, speed sessions, skill sessions, there was a collective team session and so on, all marked down and Shane just looked with amazement and said: 'Enda, where is your recovery? Where are your down days? Where is your time off?'

"In hindsight, we were massively committed and, on reflection, I would say we didn't rest well enough. I would say that we probably left a hell of a lot on the training pitch.'

In the inter-county game, if most players are living their lives broadly along these lines, then it is clear we have gone too far. The difficulty is that there is no way of trimming back the level of training that some counties do, with some even back at collective sessions before the winter training ban even becomes effective.

The difficulty in operating an amateur game is that players have jobs. Creative solutions have got around that problem by introducing early-morning gym and pitch sessions. However, young men are being treated like beasts of burden.

There is no room for men with other commitments such as children or wives and the idea of someone enjoying a long county career will soon become redundant.

The lure of young men being recognised for representing their place, will always provide sufficient motivation for new recruits. Doesn't make it right, though.

Belfast Telegraph

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