Rossies ace primed for final after winning fitness battle
There has scarcely been a better example of potential player burnout than the case of rising Roscommon star Ultan Harney.
Harney has had an injury-interrupted inter-county career since starring in their run to the All-Ireland minor semi-final in 2013 and this season's senior and U-21 preparations have already been seriously hampered.
The Clann na nGael clubman was trying to fulfil a hectic schedule between county, club and college but something had to give and eventually his body signalled it could take no more.
A torn hamstring in December required eight weeks of rest and recovery; it could have been cut to six but after discussion with the county's medical team it was decided to take more time with his long-term future in mind.
It was "grand" for three weeks but the demands of the Sigerson Cup weekend took their toll with the DCU student suffering a recurrence in the warm-up for the all-Dublin final, which they lost to UCD.
His range of commitments means that physical and mental burnout are never far around the corner and a brief look at his timetable boggles the mind. Finding a balance is almost impossible, Harney admits.
"We finished up in July with Roscommon and then we were straight back into hard training with the club. We went up until November in the Connacht championship and after that we'd club U-21 and club U-20. That went on the whole way through December," he said.
"I was playing with the club, back with DCU and then Roscommon started again so there was no real break, so that didn't help. That time of the year, you'd think in the winter months you'd get a bit of a break but it was a worse schedule than ever in November and December.
"It's worse mentally than physically. You can get over your aches but mentally you're getting up in the morning and you've training that evening. And it's a two-hour journey down and a two-hour journey back and you're running around a pitch, you're thinking 'why are you doing it?' That's the hard thing mentally.
"I suppose the way Roscommon are at the moment, we're going well and you didn't want to miss a session with the seniors. You didn't want to miss a session with the U-21s either because I suppose they're kind of depending on you. Between everything you're trying to balance it all out but it can't really be done."
Thankfully for the Rossies, he is now primed and raring to go against Mayo this weekend, in what is the Rossies' seventh consecutive provincial U-21 final. And if they are to turn underage dominance into senior success, a fit and energetic Harney will be needed to lead the charge.