Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

It is survival of the fittest, but we cannot rush players back

Injuries to players are the bane of any manager's life, the one major disruptive influence of which they have a dread.

There is no period that team bosses fear injuries as much as in the build-up to the provincial championships.

That's why over the next few weeks they will all but wrap their key players in particular in cotton wool to prevent them falling victims to any one of three sinister words – cruciate, hamstring or fracture.

In recent weeks grounds have been flint-hard because of recurring frost and the absence of rainfall.

This has meant that players have been rather more prone to injuries, the firm surface exacting a heavy toll on leg muscles.

Some Ulster counties have been particularly badly hit in this connection. Fermanagh have lost James Sherry, Eoin Donnelly, Shane Lyons, Sean Quigley and Darryl Keenan among others while Down of course had to chart their league course without Ambrose Rogers, Danny Hughes, Liam Doyle and Dan Gordon before being dealt another potentially disastrous blow when Paul McComiskey, Darren O'Hagan and Arthur McConville left the panel.

Armagh were without Charlie Vernon and Eugene McVerry for the greater portion of the league while the absence of Ronan O'Neill and Kyle Coney was certainly felt by Tyrone during the first-half of the competition.

And Derry have been forced to soldier on without their captain Mark Lynch and vice-captain Dermot McBride lately while P J McCloskey is now their latest injury victim.

Yet the Ulster injuries are put in the shade compared to the distress that Cork's Colm O'Neill is enduring how that he has incurred his third cruciate ligament injury within two years.

While the manner in which treatment is administered to injuries is important, what is of even more relevance is the amount of recovery time that players are afforded.

It is foolish in the extreme to rush players back – we have seen this too often in the past when players are pressed into service only to break down again after perhaps 20 minutes of action.

Championship football in particular is fast, furious, hugely intensive and laced with ferocious hits that are within the playing rules.

The body can only absorb so much and that's why it is important that players are in peak condition before exposing themselves to the risks involved in what is a high-tempo, unforgiving sport.

During their recovery process it is essential that players avail of ice-baths, carefully monitor their intake of fluids and manage their lifestyles in such a way that they will be able to give of their best on the field of play.

While skills, cohesion and a spirit of unity are essential for championship success, it ultimately boils down to a survival of the fittest – mentally and physically.

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