Tuesday 17 October 2017

Big ball... small ball: 'Dual star' Barrett jets in to help Déise go distance

Sports scientist Stephen Barrett. Photo: Cathal Noonan
Sports scientist Stephen Barrett. Photo: Cathal Noonan

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

A key member of Derek McGrath's backroom team is swapping the red heat of the Vuelta a Espana for the white heat of Croke Park this week.

On Tuesday, sports scientist Stephen Barrett flew in from Spain, where he has spent the last two weeks working with Irish pro cycling team Aqua Blue Sport, to help fine-tune the Waterford players' preparations for the All-Ireland final.

For the last three years, when he hasn't been lecturing in Waterford IT, the Fermoy man has been working with the Déise players principally as their nutritionist, and for the last 12 months he has added the role of head of athletic performance with Aqua Blue to his juggling act.

A club member of Castlelyons in Cork and then Passage in Waterford, Barrett also raced the Rás and rode the track for Ireland, so he is familiar with the challenges of both sports. But he also recognises the similarities.

"The underlying thing with them all is that they want to be better, and they all want to improve their performance," he told Big Ball Small Ball.

"That doesn't differ between the group of guys we have with Waterford and the group of guys we have (at the Vuelta). They all want to get better."

Galway's Johnny Glynn. Photo: David Maher/SPORTSFILE
Galway's Johnny Glynn. Photo: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

Win or lose, Sunday will be the end of the road for Waterford's season, but Barrett will be back on it when he jets off on Monday for the final week of the Spanish Grand Tour.

Glynn gamble paying off

When news of Johnny Glynn's return to the Galway hurling panel broke in early April, things like "impossible", "ridiculous" and "how is the manager even entertaining the notion" were thrown out on social media.

Commuting from his base in New York was never going to be easy but, if Glynn could make a meaningful contribution to the Tribesmen as they tried to end their 29-year All-Ireland famine, surely it was worth the gamble by Micheál Donoghue?

The gamble has worked so far with Glynn making a huge impact off the bench in their All-Ireland semi-final defeat of Tipperary and if they repeat the dose in Sunday's final, he'll be returning to the Big Apple with a Celtic Cross in his back pocket. Ridiculous indeed.

Double-jobbing Mullen in two places at once?

Managers are thrown all sorts of curveballs on and off the pitch but when you're still playing or at the helm with two teams, challenges multiply.

Former Westmeath star Alan Mangan was a busy man last Sunday, kicking 0-10 as St Malachy's booked their place in the last eight of the intermediate championship before the 2004 Leinster SFC winner, fondly known as 'Buddah', guided Tyrrellspass to the Westmeath SFC semi-finals from the sideline later that evening. 

It will be a little more difficult for the double-jobbing Declan Mullen on Saturday, however, as his worst nightmare comes true with two games scheduled for the same time.

The Westmeath native is manager of both St Oliver Plunkett's and Meath's Killyon, who are both playing their respective SHC quarter-finals at 5.0, so it's decision time for Mullen with the two games 50km apart.

Young fan demands that Gavin starts hero Connolly

Diarmuid Connolly's omission from the starting line-up in last Sunday's All-Ireland SFC semi-final defeat of Tyrone didn't go down well with one member of the Dublin football fraternity,  who put pen to paper to plead with Jim Gavin that he starts the final against Mayo.

Martin Storey savours Wexford’s 1996 victory. Photo: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
Martin Storey savours Wexford’s 1996 victory. Photo: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

The Dublin star returned from a 12-week suspension and 'Connolly-obsessed' Caitlin Murphy, daughter of former Hill 16 favourite Vinnie, told Gavin he made a "huge mistake" by not starting her favourite Dub.

The letter read: "You made a huge mistake not starting Diarmuid Connolly because he is the BEST player in the country and even my Daddy (Vinnie Murphy) agrees. So I AM DEMANDING THAT YOU PLAY MY HERO DIARMUID CONNOLLY IN THE FINAL! But seriously I may be a Connolly obsessed little girl but I speak SOME TRUTH."

BGE Stat of the Week

21  The number of years since none of hurling's 'big three' - Kilkenny, Cork and Tipperary - have featured in the All-Ireland SHC final.

Wexford, captained by Martin Storey, beat Limerick in 1996.

Sunday's decider throws up the novel pairing of Galway and Waterford, both bidding to end their All-Ireland famines with the Déise's last triumph in 1959, while the Tribesmen were last victorious 29 years ago.

Irish Independent

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