Strict diet of new technology brings bellyful of aggravation
The level of professionalism in our games is increasing at an alarming rate.
Nowadays, teams are robot-like in carrying out their meticulous preparation, which begins months and months before big games. Personally, I have little time for many of the gimmicks used. Though the evidence of their benefits cannot be ignored, I'm a firm believer that a level head served with an impressive repertoire of skills and a side of above-average pace will beat any muscle-bound, lightning-quick thicko.
However, like them or loathe them, there's no 'I' in team and I've had to bite my tongue and accept the new-fangled ideas on many occasions.
I'll never forget the first day I walked into the dressing room and was handed that little yellow jar at the door by our nutrition lady.
"Erm, there's no tablets in mine Sheila?" I muttered, after careful examination of the strange plastic container. I assumed we were getting energy capsules or something along those lines.
She chuckled. "No, no! Go down to the jacks there and fill her up. We're doing hydration tests from now on." She was, quite literally, taking the piss.
I was stunned and so was she when she got my sample, which for the record was like treacle. A day spent shearing ewes in the sweltering heat had sucked every last drop of moisture out of my body. I was then told to sit out training due to a heightened injury risk, so it wasn't all bad.
Then there was the body composition analysis. On a crisp spring morning we rolled into our training ground to see a shiny white van parked up at the door. On further inspection, we noticed the decal of a fitness company on the side of the vehicle.
Was it an endurance test? There was a fierce queue for the physio that morning with many of the lads injuring themselves spontaneously whilst walking into the dressing room.
"No, that's shockin' sore. Should I sit this session out?"
But we were wrong. One by one we were summoned into an adjoining dressing room where a chap was waiting with weighing scales and what can only be described as a big tweezers. "Could you step up on the scales please, sir?"
I obliged and did not appreciate the little eyebrow raise as he jotted down my weight. "Will I take off these shorts, they're cotton. I'd a huge breakfast too; porridge and a bowl of corn flakes. Whip off a few kilos there, yeah?"
He smiled and shook his head.
"Don't worry. Now please remove your T-shirt." What happened next was one of the most unpleasant experiences I've endured. I'll admit it, that year I'd had a particularly good Christmas and the love handles were more like love-shelves; but I always trim up for championship.
As he came at me with the giant tweezers, I took a huge breath, pulling my gut inwards to try and steer the measurements in my favour. I felt like a side of beef in a butcher's as he roughly pinched away at my various body parts whilst scribbling in his notebook.
"Go easy there horse."
I wouldn't mind but he wasn't exactly in decent nick himself and looked like he was partial to the odd snackbox.
A week later, we were told our results and as expected I needed to trim up. I cut out my Wednesday pick 'n' mix, stopped putting butter on my fried eggs and switched from beer to the top shelf and hey presto a month later they were singing my praises.
Now we welcome our spring body fat tests and have bets to see who'll drop the most in the month. Last year I took the wager seriously and fasted for a few days prior to the second test. I also used my business initiative and killed two birds by collecting sponsorship whilst fasting for Concern. I sent on the money, I swear.
On reflection, I took the urine tests and the body composition analysis in my stride, but it was a far more advanced training-aid that would prove to be my undoing.
Last summer we were sent back to play with our clubs during a gap in the provincial championship.
I showed up for a challenge game on a Sunday morning after 'enjoying myself' the night before and boy was I feeling it.
As we togged out, our trainer walked into the dressing room with a cardboard box, the lads made nothing of it but I'd been away for some time and was puzzled.
He began to dish out black belts to each of the players and when he reached me he noticed the puzzled look on my face.
"It's a tracking system. It monitors your speed and distance covered during the game." I smiled nervously and took the belt. Oh Jesus, I was done for. But I had a plan. The following Tuesday we sat in the dressing room before training awaiting the results from the tracking systems.
I was nervous but confident my plan had worked. Our trainer walked in and began to set up a projector on his laptop. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat and felt a bead of sweat on my forehead.
"Lads, well done on Sunday, great performance and the system is telling me that the work we're doing is paying off."
I breathed a sigh of relief, but it was short-lived.
"However, I'd love to know what sort of training you're doing with the county buddy?"
He was looking in my direction now and all eyes were firmly focused on my now crimson cheeks.
He peered down at his laptop screen.
"Your average speed was 40km/h."
I'd been stung. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but handing over my GPS belt and €20 to one of the injured lads and telling him to drive around the car park during the match had backfired.
"Not only that, but you kept going during half-time and got faster as the game went on."
Damn, I'd forgotten about half-time. "Ah, had the Weetabix that morning. You know yourself . . ."
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