AN increasing number of inter-county teams are utilising GPS technology to monitor their players’ training loads during the club window.
As it stands, county teams are not permitted to train again until September 14th.
However, many inter-county players will wear GPS-tracking devices while training with their clubs in order to provide workload data to county management.
"We have a medical team. They’re monitoring all our players, along with our GPS and our S&C coaches during their club activity," explained Wicklow manager Davy Burke.
"We’ll send out our GPS readings, we’ll get the data, we’ll see how much they’re doing.
"We need to know where they’re at when they come back to us. Have they done 20km a week? Have they done 10km?
"Literally, it’s purely based on load. It’s all about knowing when they come back through the door here on September 14th, what they’ve done and what they can’t do."
The use of such systems is increasingly widespread.
Last year, while Burke was manager of Sarsfields, the Newbridge side’s Kildare panellists all wore GPS devices during club training.
Burke emphasised that the practice was designed simply with the physical welfare of those inter-county players in mind.
"It’s not Big Brother or anything. We’re not here to be analysing the content of any club session."
So far, Burke explained, the GPS results have been mixed, with extremes of overloading and under-training among the findings.
"There’s two sides to it. Some lads simply aren’t doing enough," he outlined.
"Their club might be at a lower level and they might just not be doing enough.
"It might be enough to win a Junior championship and that’s fair enough, but it’s not good enough to break into the senior inter-county team on the 14th of September.
"We’ve to be very conscious of that. We’ve a couple of boys who we’ve spotted who aren’t doing half enough. That’s not them messing or slacking, it’s just the level they’re being asked to perform at at the minute.
"So we’ve sent them individual stuff just to top up. So they can be at a level where they can at least be able to compete."
Far more common, the former Kildare Under-21 manager explained, is players being exposed to too much training.
"You’re talking three challenge games in seven days and two training sessions on top of that," he explained. "And that’s outside of Wicklow now as well.
"At inter-county that would never be accepted. My leadership group would never accept three challenge games in seven days."
It is no surprise then that Burke rejects the argument that player burnout is an inter-county-caused phenomenon.
"At the minute, the narrative is ‘the club, the club, the club’ and the narrative is that the county is the enemy.
"But if you look at the number of injuries that are coming in, it really is scary. Hamstring after hamstring after hamstring going."
According to Burke "the spike in injuries is frightening" across the country already.
Meath manager Andy McEntee and respected strength and conditioning coach Mike McGurn are among the latest prominent GAA figures to predict a deluge of muscle injuries over the coming months.
"Lads can’t understand it," Burke explained.
"They’ve done nothing since the middle of March except a 5K, which is useless for playing GAA. And now they’re getting injured going back full tilt with their clubs."
Burke is resigned to being without his players until September 14th, although with the Wicklow SFC final scheduled for September 20th, it will be at least another week before the full panel begin preparations for a Division 4 promotion push and their subsequent Championship campaign.
Burke insists the Wicklow board have "given the clubs the respect they deserve" in their scheduling.
He is adamant, however, that Croke Park’s edict forbidding players whose club activity has ended from training collectively before September 14th is "unfair" to those players.
"Between the first and second weekends in August, chances are there will be 10 to 15 players whose club activity will be finished," Burke explained.
"These lads are being told they must sit on their hands for another six weeks before they can return to a county set-up.
"The lads are ravenous for work. They want to get better.
"And for lads who are knocked out early, they can’t do anything. Meanwhile, another player who gets to the county final is playing through all that time. He’s sharpening up. He’s improving.
"The other lad is now miles behind him. Is that fair? I can’t see how there would be any difficulty in having ten or 15 Wicklow players meeting up after they’re finished with their clubs.
"That baffles me," Burke added. "I can’t get my head around that."