Alan O'Connor's return places questions over training loads
McGurn claims current methods 'over-rated', writes Colm Keys
Published 07/07/2015 | 02:30
Alan O'Connor returns to the Cork football squad just after their league final defeat to Dublin and in just over two months he is moving well enough to be considered by some to be Man of the Match in a Munster final against All-Ireland champions Kerry in Killarney.
Brian Murphy returns to the Cork hurling squad at the end of May and within a couple of weeks he is seamlessly slotting in to a Cork hurling defence that struggles with Waterford but through no fault of the 32-year-old Bride Rovers man.
On Saturday night last in Wexford Park, Murphy's 'second coming' bedded down even deeper.
The common denominator between both men is that they retired from the inter-county game after the 2013 season.
But their performances on their return after 18-month-plus absences puts a spotlight on the levels of training and preparation inter-county teams are being asked to sign up to.
Is there really a need for five to six nights a week, in some cases, for up to nine months of the year if players like O'Connor and Murphy can re-adjust and adapt so quickly?
Former Down footballer Benny Coulter was quick off the mark after O'Connor's towering display for Cork when he tweeted: "Alan O Connor only into the Cork squad in April. It's all about being fresh come championship time. So many managers get it wrong!"
Would Coulter have been willing to continue playing for Down into a 16th season if the new Down management had offered him a more flexible training schedule?
Former Irish rugby strength and conditioning coach Mike McGurn, who has had spells with Armagh, Louth, Antrim and Seán Boylan's Irish International Rules team, feels the impact of O'Connor and Murphy points to current trends in preparation as being "over-rated".
McGurn said he was "going against his own profession here" but that it "just highlights time is being wasted, dicking around on strength and conditioning.
"At the end of the day they are quality players and quality will always come to the fore," he said.
"I don't know how long they have been on the panel previously but if they are on it for five or six years they would have a certain amount of muscle memory training where it kicks in pretty quickly after a couple of weeks. The muscle memory must have kicked in," he added. "But it also pinpoints the fact that all this six nights a week is a load of baloney, there is no need for it.
"You can do three years strength and conditioning but if you haven't got the skilful player or the player with ability, well then it makes no odds. And that is the bottom line.
"That's why you will always have Kerry, Dublin, Kilkenny Tipperary because the best players always come to the fore. That is the reality. We can throw out all the clichés and do all the fancy training about training," he said.
"It's not a one size fits all, it never was and certainly the older lads need to do less. Maybe it begs the question; what were these boys (O'Connor and Murphy) doing away from their Cork panels? They weren't getting flogged anyway because they were fresh for those games."
McGurn feels pre-season training in inter-county Gaelic games is too long.
"Rugby League, rugby union soccer, they all have pre-season for six to eight weeks and that does them to play a far higher intensity game than Gaelic football," he said.
"People are scared to pull back because everyone else is doing it. So if say Dublin start in November, some other team say, 'We'll start in October. And if they're starting in October we'll go in September'. I don't know where the ceiling is."