Burke laments fixtures 'mess'
Meeting held to find solution
The heavy fixture schedule facing young players in the month of January - including under-20 intercounty football, Sigerson Cup, and National Football League - is ridiculous and represents injuries waiting to happen, according to Wicklow senior football manager Davy Burke.
Student players face a jammed on-field work-load this month, with under-20 intercounty leagues having commenced already, and the Sigerson Cup getting underway on the 12th. Meanwhile, the National Football League throws-in on the 25th, with Burke's Wicklow team travelling to Carlow on the first day.
According to Burke, who has included a litany of young players in his panels for the O'Byrne Cup - many of whom will be affected by the upcoming congestion - it presents a tough task for county and freshers management to handle.
'The load management is huge. We had a meeting with the county board and under-20 management, just to make a plan, because the fixtures are a mess, to be honest with you,' he told the Wicklow People.
'We have Andy Maher, Eoin Darcy, Zach Cullen, and Paddy O'Keane who are four under-20s, but we have more lads who are in college, including Cian Lee and others. They have a very heavy month of work-load, with the National Football League, to freshers, to Sigerson, to under-20 football.
'It is ridiculous, really. Myself, Kevin O'Brien, and the freshers manager have to do our best to manage this load. Training will probably be limited for those young lads, because stepping in and out of college football work. With regards to conditioning, it is a waste of time because they're going to have game, game, game. We are talking two/three games a week, which is ridiculous stuff.
'It is an injury waiting to happen.'
Burke was speaking after watching his team collect their first win of pre-season; coming from behind to defeat Longford 2-9 to 0-14.
AGB forward, Chris O'Brien, was the match-winner on the day, courtesy of a late, late goal, after Cian O'Sullivan's shot was punched back into play by Longford goalkeeper, Pat Farrell.
While delighted with his side's work-rate in the hard-fought win, Burke reserved praise for Robert Lambert, who kept Wicklow in the contest with two crucial first-half saves.
'In fairness to Bob, he is a great fella. He's probably been in Mark's shadow for a couple of years and I am led to believe that he plays outfield for Aughrim.
'He's played 50-odd minutes against Kildare, we played two challenges since then so he has been 70-70, so he's got 200 minutes under his belt, which he wouldn't have got in two years, you know? He is a good 'keeper. He's much improved. He just needed game time.'
Despite the win, Burke admitted that Wicklow's tendency to drop scoreable shots into the arms of the opposition 'keeper - which they did eight time against Longford - is a concern, and something that he will be looking to work on before they travel to play Carlow in the league on January 25.
'We have been consistently dropping the ball short. It is an issue that needs to be addressed. We are addressing it and we will continue to address it. At least we are creating the opportunities. The ball is getting up there and we are getting the shots away. I want confident forwards. I want lads shooting.
'2-9 was enough today, it probably won't be enough going forward, but in fairness, Longford play a decent brand of football, in that they want to go forward, so it was probably easier to score a bit today. In Division Four, I'm not sure if that is going to be the case or not. We need to keep converting and stop dropping the ball short.
'We have started with tactical work about two weeks ago, and we had Christmas in the middle of all of that, so we're not really far on. I like to think that, from the sideline and the press box, you are starting to see a bit of pattern to our play; a bit of continuity and fluidity, because we are training together more.
'There are a few lads on the side-line that didn't get on, who are part of our plans; Niall Donnelly is very much part of our plans; Oisin Manning is very much part of our plans; Mark Jackson, Darren Hayden, Darragh Fitzgerald; there are plenty of lads there, so now we have a bit of depth that I am talking about.
'We are heading in the right direction, [but] loads and loads and loads to work on.'