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Rivals to crank up heat for Ulster bid

By Declan Bogue

Published 12/04/2016

With the trend: warm-weather training has become a more common sight within the GAA
With the trend: warm-weather training has become a more common sight within the GAA

In preparation for the Ulster Championship, Cavan and Monaghan are both set for a spell in Portugal at a warm-weather training camp.

As a sign of the economic times, they are the only Ulster sides who are jetting off, although Donegal spent a week training in Tenerife back in February after the opening two rounds of the National League.

Cavan are due to depart on April 25, the day after they face Tyrone in the Division Two final, while Monaghan will leave a week later.

Both sides went away prior to the Championship last year. Cavan stayed in upstate New York, while Monaghan were in the same Portugal complex.

This weekend, the club fixtures in Fermanagh will be 'starred' games, featuring no county players as they are travelling to Breaffy House Hotel where they will face Mayo in a challenge match.

Tyrone usually head away to either Johnstown House or Carton House ahead of their opening Championship match, but have never embarked upon a warm-weather camp under Mickey Harte.

Antrim, Armagh, Down and Derry have no plans as yet to go 'in camp' ahead of their summer campaign.

The phrase 'warm-weather training' was barely heard of in Ulster - Kerry having undertaken such ventures beforehand - until then-manager Joe Kernan brought Armagh to the La Manga complex in Spain in early May 2002. That September, they won their only All-Ireland title.

Kernan explains now: "The bottom line is, the only reason we did it was because the winter was very bad.

"I wasn't worried about who did what, but at the same time it was for us. The winter was bad, we missed out on a few weeks' training that we needed to get under our belts. Getting facilities was a big problem because we only had one ground in Armagh and we had to go around begging clubs and unfortunately, no club wants you digging up their grounds.

"We were under pressure to do the work we wanted to get done and we felt that we needed to do something."

Kernan was aware of the high risks of taking a team away. He recalled: "From a morale point of view, we wanted to do something that hadn't been done before. In going away, we were going to put ourselves under pressure and people were going to say things and it was one way of unifying the boys.

"We were getting a bit of stick at home - 'why are Armagh going away before the thing has started?'. But it wasn't a holiday, it was hard work.

"It unified the team, it sharpened us, we got a lot of hard work done in those four or five days. It meant that when we came back, once we got a bit of a breather, we were at Championship tempo."

While bringing a party of over 40 had financial implications, Kernan had already found a way around that by doing an early version of crowd-funding, a model that Jim McGuinness later used to great effect in bringing Donegal to numerous training camps both at home and abroad.

"I went to people I knew, good Armagh supporters who were able to put some funds in," said Kernan. "In actual fact, the way it worked out, the county board didn't have to pay more than if we trained at home.

"It cost us over £30,000 and I was able to use the contacts I had for people to donate, which they were very happy to do.

"I had most of the money raised before I even mentioned it to the county board. And they were panicking, thinking where is this money going to come from, but it didn't cost them any more than us staying and training at home.

"They were delighted with that! But in fairness to them, they wouldn't have stood in our way because we worked well together."

Kernan also brought a number of speakers in to address his players, including Jonny Wilkinson's kicking coach, Dave Alred, and Wales rugby assistant manager, Shaun Edwards.

Meanwhile, Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan is out of contention for a starting place in the Allianz Division Two final against Cavan.

He broke a bone in his hand playing for his club Edendork on Sunday afternoon and could have his hand in plaster for up to six weeks.

He scored seven points in their win over Strabane.

Belfast Telegraph

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