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Train Hard. Train Smart

The Dublin senior football team is packed with some of the best sporting talent in the country. But exactly how do these players shape up in training before big games?

The basics

Getting the basics right is the biggest focus at a Dublin training session according to star forward Kevin McManamon.

"We focus a lot on the skills of the game, for example, kicking balls over the bar while under pressure. There is a lot of technical work involved - ball handing, forwards shooting and backs tackling - it's not rocket science!"

What is the biggest difference between training at club level and at elite sports level with Dublin?

"The big difference is the attitude that players bring to it. 'Train Hard and Train Smart'. It's not exactly our motto but it's how we approach training. If you are training with the right attitude and the right intensity you are going to improve."

Switching things up

Too much repetition can lead to boredom and no player wants to be bored with their training. McManamon says that Dublin manager Jim Gavin and his coaching team are very good at keeping things interesting.

"You need variety to enjoy whatever kind of training you are doing. Mixing it up is important. For example we train in a range of venues across the city. Recently we were using facilities in Balgriffin. We also have really good coaches who keep the sessions interesting."

This year Jim Gavin enlisted the help of renowned basketball coach Mark Ingle to help with the team. While the development made headlines McManamon says it was no big deal.

"Too much was made out of that. We were just trying to mix things up in January. We did some indoor fitness sessions with him. He is a good guy and a very good basketball coach."

When McManamon was first introduced to the Dublin panel, under Pat Gilroy's managerial reign, the team regularly took part in 6am training sessions.

"We don't do those sessions any more," he says. "I was always a fan of the 6am sessions because it meant I had my evenings free. I was up early anyway so I didn't mind doing them. Although it wasn't great doing them in January!"

The opposition

How much training time do the Dubs allocate to focusing on opposition? Not much according to McManamon.

"I think you can get a bit obsessed with what the opposition are doing. Of course, you do your homework. You have to be aware of the challenge that is in front of you. The key is to maximise your own potential. It's all about getting your own head right and getting your mindset right as you approach big games."

Making the starting 15

To earn playing time McManamon must compete with some of the best forwards in the country - from experienced players like Alan Brogan to new kids on the block like Cormac Costello. How exactly can he give himself the edge to ensure he receives a jersey from the manager?

"It's a big challenge," he says. "When I do get into the team it puts a smile on my face and fills me with confidence. It is always a big vote of confidence from the management to get in the team when there is so much talent available.

"It's really exciting in the summer when we start having internal practise games. That for me is the most enjoyable part of playing with Dublin. There is a great atmosphere in the team and a great bond between the players. The management always pick the players that have done well in those internal games. I think that is the right way to do it."

Be ready

After Manchester United's recent defeat to Everton, Manager Louis van Gaal said he feared his side would struggle after watching the team warm-up. McManamon says that players need to be switched on for a game from the moment they swing their leg out of bed that morning.

"You have to be ready in the days leading into a game. In my experience, motivational speeches and screaming and shouting from a manager doesn't necessarily work. You are in charge of yourself. You have to be ready to go from the time you wake up in the morning."

Working with Jayo

Dublin legend Jason Sherlock joined Jim Gavin's management team at the start of the 2015 season. McManamon says he enjoys brainstorming with his fellow sharpshooter before big games.

"I have a lot of time for 'Jayo'. It is great to be able to bounce ideas off him and Jim too who was also a forward. Jason has a very good football brain. He has fitted in well. He brought in a lot of new ideas and we are trying to implement them into our system."