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Conditioning and strength is vital but so is drive: Tyrone tasted defeat on the day because Armagh were the better team

By Ryan McMenamin

There has been a lot of talk in Tyrone over the last month of strength and conditioning, and it has been cited as a factor in their Championship exits of recent times. What seems to have brought this into keener focus was the departure of Fergal McCann, the team trainer, along with selector Tony Donnelly from the backroom team, leaving Mickey Harte with some important appointments to make over the next few months.

People talk about strength and conditioning and they can use it as a crutch, an excuse. Some are using it as an excuse for getting beaten by Armagh.

But it's a bit of both. You have to look at the players who weren't good enough against Armagh and did not perform. That over-rides any concerns over what weight a player can lift.

The second thing is the player buy-in. There were a few rumours flying around that one or two players were not happy with it and once you get a few boys saying it, it leads to a general mood over the panel. That means less effort being put in.

Tyrone tasted defeat on the day because Armagh were the better team and if you look at the teams in the quarter-finals, they put in a hell of a lot of strength and conditioning work and it stood to them.

A lot of it comes down to the players.

One of the solutions, or so it seems from the way people are talking, is to try to tempt Peter Donnelly back from his role working with Cavan in their development.

I have been speaking to Peter about a few things and I have watched the work he has done with Cavan.

He is tailored to the individual player and seems to have done a phenomenal job with Cavan.

For one thing, he is a GAA player and he knows what the players want. If Peter was to come to Tyrone, it would be a massive advantage, a huge thing for the Tyrone set-up because one man could do the programmes for seniors, minors and Under-21s.

That would work better and the continuity would be beneficial.

Peter also does a lot of work in visiting players and it's what a lot of forward-looking teams are getting involved in. It would be a very smart, astute move for Tyrone to bring him in.

Something else that has been occupying my mind in recent times is the level of commitment that people are giving to their club.

This is especially prevalent right now in Tyrone and other Ulster counties where the club Championships are in full swing.

There is a lot of stuff said about playing for the county and the amount of effort you put in. But playing club football has got to the stage that you are putting in the same amount of effort as you would if you were playing with the county.

I noticed over the last couple of years that you are putting in the work, training two or three nights a week, and you are expected to go to the gym of your own accord and do the weights session there.

You are expected to look after yourself and adhere to drinks bans and things alone those lines.

I know that in a lot of clubs around Tyrone – Clonoe and Errigal to name two – even the juniors and intermediate footballers train as hard as the seniors and county footballers.

People talk about county players dedicating their lives, but I notice with the club Championships that people are giving up holidays, putting everything on hold for their competition. Not enough is made of the dedication of club footballers.

Where does all this lead?

I think the end game is a two-tier system in the GAA, similar to rugby in that players who are good enough to play for their county remain with them, and rarely if ever play with their clubs.

I think it's coming close. Maybe in the next 10 or 15 years. You are always going to have this debate between club and county and it will continue until the fixtures are sorted out at county level.

There's no point sorting fixtures out at the bottom when they can't sort the fixtures out at the top.

There's no doubt that the All-Ireland final could be pushed back to the end of August, but they won't do that as it all comes down to money.

The GAA talk about tradition but if something is costing money, they will get rid of it. If it is making money, they will keep it.

The way it is going at the minute, there is going to be two separate entities unless they sort the fixtures out. But the county game makes money for the GAA and the club doesn't, so there's your answer.

Read Ryan McMenamin's Off The Ball column every Monday in the Belfast Telegraph

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