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Gleeson revelations point to year-round commitment

Devoted: Austin Gleeson says he will train through the winter break
Devoted: Austin Gleeson says he will train through the winter break
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

COMMENTS this week from 2016 Hurler of the Year Austin Gleeson gives us a flavour of the workload that intercounty players are faced with.

Perhaps it says more about yourself what side you fall down on, but Gleeson's determination to train right through Christmas and mind his diet, essentially devoting the traditional break to the end goal of an All-Ireland at the end of August, is typical of many right now.

"Just literally I'm going to empty myself for the whole winter," said Gleeson.

Now, it's not that the sole purpose of Christmas is to indulge in greed and sloth. Many managers will line up to tell us that players see themselves as Gaelic athletes and will treat their bodies accordingly. And there's enough tempting ads for the likes of Guinness and the 'luxury foods' of Marks and Spencers without this column becoming propaganda for acquiring love handles at the end of December.

But that all said, it feels a little po-faced to be talking of the 'sacrifices' that have to be made at this time of year.

Credit to Gleeson, he wants to rediscover the type of form that gave him such a vaunted status in the game at such a young age, but nobody can be that dialled into their hobby for such a prolonged period without other areas of their life suffering.

Intercounty players are not helped by the season. Put simply, there are far too many competitions.

For instance, this weekend sees the commencement of the 2020 county season.

This Sunday, December 1, there is a full round of hurling fixtures in the Conor McGurk Cup.

Now, this is an ideal opportunity for the likes of new Antrim hurling manager Darren Gleeson or Fermanagh's Joe Baldwin to offer an extended playing panel a chance to stake their claim.

It does away with ad-hoc, random challenge matches which can present many difficulties.

But still, hurling in December?

And on December 29, the Dr McKenna Cup is due to start.

The reasoning behind that comes from pulling the league fixtures back a week to make April exclusive to clubs.

If there is no off-season for counties, it's now the norm for clubs too.

The Club Player's Association were looking for a blank canvas to sort out fixtures. With so many vested interests, it seems that can never happen.

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