Players with hay fever risk an own goal
The grassy playing field may the toughest opponent inter-county players encounter during crucial summer clashes.
Doctors are urging that county GAA players should be screened for allergies, including hay fever, which can strike over the summer months when they need to deliver peak performance.
Medics from Cork University Hospital and St Luke's General Hospital in Kilkenny looked at 254 elite players for allergies and found that more than one in four had a reaction to some allergen, mostly grass pollen and dust mite.
None were on standard medical therapies or other medications to counter symptoms which can include runny nose, sore eyes and also cause lack of sleep.
Trees release their pollen in March to early May. Grasses release pollen from late May to early August. And weeds and certain shrubs release their pollen in late summer. The hay fever season can therefore extend from March to October.
If they took treatment before the pollen season, it would prevent months of unnecessary eye and ear problems and "possible sporting under-performance".
As grass pollen allergy rarely occurs in isolation, elite athletes who have symptoms should be screened for other allergies, the study published in the 'Irish Medical Journal' said.
The study also found that less than 5pc were smokers, much lower than the average prevalence of 22.9pc among men in the general population.