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Biting Back: GAA also craves stronger, faster, higher

By Declan Bogue

At the turn of the century, Gaelic players, particularly in football and somewhat less so in hurling, were beginning to experiment with weights training. It led to big gains but a lot of the exercises were ad-hoc.

Several years later I stood at a pre-Championship press night and watched a county panel go through their weights session.

Mick McGurn, the strength and conditioning coach, was there. When I questioned the lack of bench-pressing and arm-curling, something I thought was the bedrock of weights training, he informed me that they were nothing more than 'mirror muscles', and that he concentrated on the then exotic-sounding 'functional movement'.

Compare a team photo from 15 years ago to now, and you will see a marked difference in the shape of players.

The third most drug-tested group of sportsmen in Ireland, behind athletics and cycling, is Gaelic stars. In the 14 years since they introduced testing, only Kerry's Aidan O'Mahony came under suspicion, and at that he was permitted to use Salbutamol, as it was an active ingredient in his Ventolin inhaler to treat his asthma.

News that a Monaghan trialist has produced a positive test makes perfect sense in a way.

Trying to break onto a county team without the years of weight training already undergone by established members, and with limited opportunity to do so, can lead to desperate measures.

Therefore, the player deserves our sympathy. He is a victim of the way the game has gone, in the pursuit of stronger, faster, higher.

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