FORMER Westmeath football manager and athletics coach Brendan Hackett believes Jerry Kiernan's controversial views on the fitness of inter-county players are at least 10 years out of date.
Kiernan riled GAA players across the country last week when insisting they "don't have the right commitment to fitness" in a radio interview on Newstalk.
But Hackett – who has worked with around 15 separate county teams as well as some of Ireland's best athletes in recent times, including 1500m European silver medallist James Nolan – insists GAA players are comparable to top athletes in terms of the time they spend training.
"He would have had a point up to maybe 10 years ago," Hackett said. "The top three or four teams might have got away with (training) three or four times a week around that time, but that has changed."
Hackett managed Longford and Offaly in the late 1980s and early 1990s before working with a variety of athletes at a number of Olympic Games and European Championships. He made a brief return to inter-county management with Westmeath in 2010 and continues to work behind the scenes with inter-county teams.
"They train six days a week most of them. I have worked with teams right through the four divisions and in terms of time spent they are comparable," he said.
In some cases, GAA teams have turned to athletes for their physical preparation.
David Matthews trains the Cork hurlers, while Pat Flanagan, who has helped Kerry's footballers to All-Ireland titles, is now involved in Michael Ryan's Waterford hurling set-up.
"People involved in athletics tapped into the new research at an early stage and that has been adopted by teams now," said Hackett.
"Going back a few years, he might have had a point. But GAA teams have tapped into new levels of expertise and teams are prepared much differently.
"Unless you have been around an inter-county set-up, it's hard to explain exactly how far they go. It's quite sophisticated, but to give the impression they are not as committed just isn't correct."