Pre-season is a crucial period in any teams preparations for the upcomimg season, and in any sport. With the level of professionalism within the GAA on the rise however, the level of training is increasing dramatically and many managers aren’t keen on their teams playing in pre-season competitions.
The effects of the hard slog of pre-season training is clear to be seen in these early season matches. Even as winter progresses to spring and the national leagues commence, players are still somewhat off their peak, in most cases.
This writer says ”most cases” because for some of the so-called weaker teams, the league is their championship. Promotion or relegation is what defines their season as a success or failure. For Colm Collins, manager of the Clare senior football team, league is his priority.
One would have to agree with the Cratloe man. Although Clare, Tipperary and recently Waterford, who claimed their first McGrath Cup since 1981 last Saturday, are making huge strides with the big ball, it is hard to see past, Cork or Kerry claiming provincial honours down south.
Although for different reasons, Clare have not participated in the McGrath Cup for the past two seasons. In 2014, they refused to play because of the controversial seeding system that was re-introduced by the Munster Council.
That issue has been resolved but Clare decided that last season’s league form had benefited from a ”free January” and decided not to participate again this year.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Collins expressed his views on the pre-season competition.
“In any given year, you may only have one game in it or you could have two meaningless games in it that are no good to you whatsoever. It’s not clearcut. If you were guaranteed really competitive games it would be fantastic but that’s not the case with it. So we decided to do the same again.”
In many ways, Collins is signalling that these early season contests are an inconvenience to his side’s pre-season training.
Most managers are increasing the level of training while decreasing the quantity of matches.
Kerry’s All-Star forward, Paul Geaney outlined the need to have less training and more matches, the exact opposite of what most managers are demanding, while speaking to rte.ie recently.
“I suppose the only thing I’d advocate is more games and less training. We train maybe 100 times a year, come up to play maybe 15 competitive games, including the league.”
Geaney is speaking on behalf of the All-Ireland champions Kerry, who went all the way to the All-Ireland final last September. If one looks again at the so-called weaker teams, they are training as much as any of the big guns’ quantity of training sessions without being rewarded on the match front.
The wants of both managers and players are clashing. One can understand both sides of the story. Simply, players just want to play as many matches as possible and the managers feel the need to train as much as possible to maximise the capability of their squad.
Is there a solution on the horizon?
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena