Davy Fitz reveals the Banner's bid to combat player burnout
DAVY FITZGERALD is a busy man this week, what with preparing his Limerick IT hurlers for yesterday's Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-final against Waterford IT – and then launching his beloved Banner into another year of National League combat against the Waterford county team on Sunday.
Typical of the man, there was no sign of mental fatigue as Davy Fitz' waxed lyrical with the media at this week's Allianz NHL launch in Dublin ... and yet player burnout, he concedes, remains a real and present danger to our double-jobbing county/college stars.
That's why he has imposed strict rules on when his in-demand Clare panellists can train – or rather when they can't.
Fitzgerald was a member of the player burnout task-force that, five years ago, failed in its controversial proposal to merge the minor and U21 championships into a new U19 grade.
"Tradition, boys, you know it as well as I know it, in the GAA is hard to change," he says, looking back on that failed Special Congress vote.
But the former Clare 'keeper openly admits that he's still learning about the risks inherent in over-extending those players who have too many managerial masters. Those perils can involve wear-and-tear injuries; but there's also the issue of mental burnout.
"That's why we lose players," he concludes.
"I've seen a few of them, I just think they lose their appetite if they're asked to do too much. Maybe even as I've matured as a person or as a manager over the last few years, it's something I feel we had to address."
Fitzgerald then recounts the example of a Clare hurler who was "stuck in a book on the way down to the league semi-final last year.
"I shouldn't have played him. His head definitely wasn't in it. He was studying all hours and, the more I thought of it, I realised he was thinking about his livelihood and that is so important – and here I was putting more pressure on him by playing this game.
"Maybe I should have realised that and gave him a breather ... we have had chats with him to see how we can help him with study but he was hardly getting any sleep.
"We have to appreciate things like that and what lads are doing outside of training."
"I made a rule in Clare – and it isn't the most popular with Fitzgibbon managers but I'm one of them myself," he pointed out.
"We have a policy with the Clare senior team, you would train 'X' amount of days a week, and that's it, no matter what the story is.
"If they play a college game, they've to miss Clare training. If they play with their club under-21s ... they'll miss a game.
"We're not going to allow college teams to train them, then they train with us the following night, because it's counter-productive."
He reckoned that for "99 per cent" of the time, Clare players will not train with their college until coming into the week of a Fitzgibbon clash, at which point they'll work exclusively with the college team.
Still, the February fixture schedule is borderline chaotic.
Given that January is viewed by most county managements as a "really hard-working month", his own preference would be to start running off the Higher Education championships early that month.