From the stands: Packers' visitors set for chilly reception
November and December will be remembered as two untypically dry months, although a lot of footballers and hurlers will remember differently.
And that's because the few days when the weather did turn nasty seemed to fall on the big days for the club players in our national games as wind, rain and cold blighted many county and provincial finals.
A quick look across the pond at the NFL and the forecasted weather conditions for today's play-off game in Lambeau Field between the Green Bay Packers and the 49ers shows that there are athletes worse off than GAA players. Well, when it comes to the weather at any rate.
The game is expected to be one of the coldest ever played at the Packers' home ground with the official US national weather service predicting game-time high temperatures of 2 degrees Fahrenheit (almost -17 celsius) dropping to minus 18 (-28 celsius) later in the evening. Wind speeds will be from 10 to 15 mph, meaning it will feel even colder.
Hand-warmers will be handed out to the spectators and there will be plenty of emergency services around the ground. All things considered, a wet and windy Parnell Park seems a lot more appealing.
* * * * *
There was a time when winning back-to-back All-Ireland titles was an almost impossible feat because of the months of celebrations that followed a win. Teams attended functions, flew overseas with the cup and handed out medals for several months after a victory, with some staying on the rollercoaster well into the new year. The All-Ireland hangover was a long drawn-out experience for many players.
Last year Dublin won the All-Ireland football title and were deserving winners, having dominated all season. At the start of last week a training diary for the upcoming seven days appeared online. It outlined an intense training schedule, detailed their food, water and supplement intake and even had some suggestions for things to do during their down time. There were no allowances for New Year's celebrations; training was scheduled for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
Every base was covered; it showed the professionalism of Jim Gavin's set-up and the dedication of the players. While the debate over whether or not Dublin should share their sponsorship money is regularly heard, that diary shows that maybe it's the preparation as opposed to the money which is the reason they are successful on the pitch.
* * * * *
Ireland's biggest ever endurance event will take place throughout August 2014. The Endurance Challenge 2068km, which was started by James Colbert and Seán Buckley, aims to raise €500,000 for Breakthrough Cancer Research.
Colbert and Buckley plan to undertake a record triathlon feat by cycling through every county in Ireland, swimming 120km of the River Shannon and running in four consecutive marathons, a total of 2,068km, all in just 22 days. The event is in memory of Buckley's father who passed away from cancer last year. Members of the public can join in by taking part in one of the four marathons, or in one of the four regional cycle tours.
"I have had the ambition for a long time to create an 'ultimate challenge', which would test my mind and body to the limits," said Buckley. "Having recently lost my father to cancer, I hope that by completing the Endurance Challenge and inspiring others, we will also raise much needed funds for Breakthrough Research to facilitate their work into new treatments."
For more information see www.endurancechallenge.ie
* * * * *
Irish athletics' new indoor league programme gets under way at the International Arena in Athlone today. The objective is to provide Irish athletes with more competition on home soil and allow for better preparation for international events.
It is a club-based competition which will take place over three rounds. Events will be divided over the first two rounds with three track and two to three field events per day. The final round will cover all events. Teams will be male and female and clubs can enter two teams into each of these categories. The top six clubs will then compete in the final.