SIX weeks after GAA director-general Paraic Duffy warned that placing unreasonable demands on players could result in the retirement age dropping to the mid-20s over the next decade, figures show that 2013 will run the busiest schedule in the Association's history.
Fixtures have increased this year due to the O'Byrne Cup being played on a round-robin basis. Players are already involved in an intense January programme, featuring three games in a week for Leinster counties. Remarkably, January will be the busiest month of the year in football with a total of 68 inter-county games being played across the four provinces. That's eight more than the total for the May-September period.
The hectic pace in the first three months means that by the end of March, 65pc of all senior football and hurling games will have been played, in addition to All-Ireland club semi-finals and finals, inter-provincial championships, Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups, plus most of the U-21 provincial football championships.
"The whole early season programme does present a challenge. There's a huge amount of pressure on players in the 18-22 age bracket, in particular," said Ger Ryan, chairman of the GAA's Medical Scientific and Welfare Committee.