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Ger Brennan calls for overhaul of 'draining' season

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Dublin and St Vincent's defender Ger Brennan believes the GAA needs to be doing more when it comes to the issue of player welfare. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Dublin and St Vincent's defender Ger Brennan believes the GAA needs to be doing more when it comes to the issue of player welfare. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Dublin and St Vincent's defender Ger Brennan believes the GAA needs to be doing more when it comes to the issue of player welfare. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

DUBLIN and St Vincent's star Ger Brennan has added his voice to calls for the GAA club season to be completed in a calendar year.

Brennan highlighted the increasing demands on the amateur players of the Association and believes that player welfare is a priority issue.

The two-time All-Ireland winner has personal experience of the toll taken on players as his 2014 campaign with the Dubs was seriously affected by recurring injury problems.

And while he's delighted to be back in a Leinster final with his club - St Vincent's play Rhode on December 14 - Brennan wonders how long players in successful teams can stay in competitive mode from one season to another without their fitness and health breaking down.

MARATHON

Asked what was the secret to keeping the St Vincent's show on the road over marathon back-to-back campaigns, Brennan replied: "You really have to compartmentalise your thinking and focus on each challenge as it comes.

"If you get caught up in looking at the bigger picture, it can be overpowering in terms of your mental energy.

"That's an area in which Tommy (Conroy) and the management team do a very good job, but I think the GAA really has to look at the fixture list in terms of having everything in one calendar year.

"The GAA will probably argue in terms of trying to promote the games throughout the 12 months because there's a lot of competition between GAA and soccer and rugby and that's fine, but they need to start taking players bodies into account as well."

Ironically, given the physical nature of Gaelic football, Brennan reckons that wear and tear caused by one season blending into the next without adequate rest has caused his most serious injuries.

"Any injury I've ever had has not been through collisions really. I've had a few cuts here and there but of the injuries I've had, it's more from chronic fatigue in terms of high intensity training all year round without getting a break," he said.

"Myself and Diarmuid (Connolly), I don't know how long we're going now, 36 months or something like that.

"Diarmuid was the one who was playing, while I was doing rehab in the background, but you're still working hard trying to get back to playing. It certainly can take its toll."

It could be argued that Brennan and his St Vincent's clubmates are victims of their own success, because they are now chasing back-to-back AIB Leinster titles.

Brennan is not complaining about staying in training for the decider against Offaly champions Rhode in the provincial decider, and hopefully beyond that, but considers that somebody, somewhere, has to find a better system.

St Vincent's effectively began preparing for their 2013 Dublin championship campaign around November 2012.

By December 2013, they had become county champions and followed that up with a successful Leinster campaign.

In February 2014, they won their All-Ireland club semi-final and defeated Castlebar Mitchels in the All-Ireland final on St Patrick's Day.

After a brief respite - although Connolly and Brennan had Dublin commitments - the Vincent's players were back in harness building towards a defence of their county title.

Once that was achieved, Leinster became the next target.

Brennan noted that no matter who wins the four club provincial finals at this time of year, they all face similar problems with the long wait for All-Ireland club semi-finals in the spring.

"Whoever wins the provincial championship, they're going into a brand new competition, and telling lads not to go out and enjoy themselves over the Christmas is pretty stupid.

"But then, you do have to mind yourself, because you're thinking 'what's the other team doing?' as well, so mentally you're always thinking, even though you mightn't be playing, and that is certainly draining on the body," said Brennan.

TAMPERING

Change means tampering with tradition, and, while that may be unpalatable to some, it may have to happen, and any plan to play the whole GAA season in a calendar year would almost inevitably require alteration to the Association's biggest occasions, the All-Ireland finals.

"Tradition is fine in terms of the first and third Sundays in September for the All-Ireland finals, but there comes a time when how valuable is the tradition in terms of player welfare and promoting the club game, and giving club guys their opportunity. . . At the moment there's an imbalance," said Brennan.

Brennan's leadership is one of the reasons St Vincent's have got so far, including contributing two important points in a tough semi-final against Garrycastle at Parnell Park last Sunday.

"In fairness to them, Garrycastle really put it up to us. We're just relieved to have got out of there and that we're still in the competition," said Brennan.

Irish Independent