Study suggests fatiguemay contribute to refereeing mistakes
Inter-county GAA referees ran distances in the 2011 championship comparable to professional soccer midfielders.
Referees in 60 hurling and football championship games were monitored by DCU's department of health and human performance over the summer and the results showed that they covered distances between 10km and 12km in each match.
Professor Niall Moyna, head of the DCU department, said the findings could establish if there is a link between the awarding of a free and the tiring condition of a referee.
The results surprised Moyna and his team who have responsibility for the fitness assessment of inter-county GAA referees.
"For 60 of the championship games we put GPS heart-rate monitors and accelerometers on the referees. Most ran around 12km.
"It's the exact same as the soccer player, only the referees do it over 70 minutes. For a soccer player it's 90 minutes. We were surprised. It's obviously much lower intensity than the players," he said.
"Now what we're trying to track is the number of high-intensity activities they do and how often do they give a free.
"Say, for example, they have five high-intensity bouts and after that, because their heart rate intensity was so high, did they give a free that wasn't a free because they wanted a rest?"
Moyna believes the top 15 GAA referees have a level of fitness comparable to good club players and even some inter-county players. There is a requirement for GAA referees to run 3,200 metres in under 12 minutes.
Moyna was one of the keynote speakers at an exhibition in Croke Park yesterday hosted by Clarity, a centre of science, engineering and technology between UCD, DCU and the Tyndall National Institute in Cork, which develops sensor web technologies.
The Monaghan native, who was part of Dublin football's back-room team in 2011, is adamant that sports science will play a much greater role in Gaelic games preparation over the next decade and believes a device that profiles the composition of sweat in real time will be one of the most revolutionary and revealing.
The device featured as part of the Clarity exhibition.
"The big step is sweat and the stuff we can measure by sweat.
"Lactate, hydration, hydration status can all be analysed in real time so you come in at half-time and make recommendations."
The sweat patches will be small in size, not much bigger than a one cent coin and will be worn discreetly on the back. They are much smaller than the GPS systems which the Irish international rugby team has worn in recent times to source various measurements.
"It will be built into the apparel and it will change colour," explained Moyna.
"When you start linking that with the heart rate and GPS and you say 'hold on, he's dehydrating, take a look at his last five minutes, he's not performing.' You can take a look at the players' heart rate to see if it's up. Look at the number of high-intensity bouts he has performed. The key thing is being able to take all the technology, get the right software and know how to use it appropriately.
"You'll be able to see who is performing optimally; who is not performing optimally.
"Are there trends that appear in a player at the same time in games and can those then be addressed in training? Is it systemic, is it a team issue that it is not just one player. All in real time."
Moyna said the devices are likely to be trialled on hockey and soccer teams next with GAA inter-county teams probably embracing it extensively over the next five to eight years. The cost, he estimates, will be no more than €150 per player.
Moyna accepted that while results will be accurate, they may not paint a complete picture and allow for other factors around a player.
Two inter-county footballers and DCU students, Sligo's David Kelly and Roscommon's Cathal Cregg, are close to completing a study that has determined that small levels of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) have the same effect of much longer levels of endurance type (ET) training.
Over a six-week period, taking biopsies and blood samples, the pair, together with another student Crionna Tobin, determined that 13.4 minutes of HIIT had the same effect as 11 hours and 33 minutes of ET training, a 54-fold difference.
"The small bouts of training are as beneficial as hours of it," said Moyna.
"The high intensity was only three minutes and it's the same (impact) as endurance because when we take biopsies we're looking at both the muscle, looking at blood and we're at looking physiological aspects and we're looking at similar responses.
"That's an important message for GAA, the amount of time spent on training."