Blood results show 'frightening' health risks of schedule -- Moyna
THE pressure on young GAA players, particularly at this time of year is unsustainable in the long term and will lead to early retirements.
That's the view of Professor Niall Moyna of DCU, who combines his academic expertise with a distinguished CV of management with DCU and at county level.
Moyna is a coach with Down but his immediate priority is DCU's O'Byrne Cup campaign prior to the Sigerson Cup. Last weekend the programme of pre-season fixtures played around the country included 11 matches that featured county teams against third-level colleges.
It signalled the start of a hectic period when talented young players come under serious physical and mental pressure as they seek to fulfill the demands of various teams between county senior and U-21, Sigerson Cup and club fixtures.
Something has to give, and despite the best efforts at compromise, Moyna believes that in the long-term, players will lose out.
"During the O'Byrne Cup we're drawing blood from the players and we're doing a test every day. We're measuring markers for muscle damage in the next 10 days to see what effect playing three games in seven days does," he said.
"We did it three years ago and the results were frightening. When you play a game, you damage your muscles, and these proteins leak into your bloodstream. We can measure them.
"Under normal conditions they should be around a value of 170; we had two players we measured last time that were above 2000. At that level, that can cause kidney failure."
Moyna is also concerned about the level of injury, particularly wear and tear problems, afflicting young players due to a combination of heavy training and too many teams requiring their services, pointing out that DCU were missing 12 county players for their match with Louth.
"Colm Begley has just gone for surgery; Fiontan O Curraoin and Tomas Flynn from Galway are both injured; Mickey Quinn of Longford is injured; James McCarthy is also injured. The list goes on," he said.
"A player who was in Australia and is now with us told me he trains much harder as an amateur player than he did when playing full-time in Australia. Fellas getting hip surgeries in their mid-20s worries me. It's not sustainable. That's the bottom line. It cannot continue."
Moyna believes a serious overhaul of the fixture list is required, and also that a way has to be found to increase the number of matches and decrease the number of training sessions at all levels, from club upwards.