When Wayne Rooney was made available for England's friendly game against Scotland last week, Manchester United provided his Global Positioning System (GPS) data to Roy Hodgson's backroom staff.
This information gave them an overview of the striker's fitness levels and also the information on his output at training so they could determine what he was capable of on the pitch.
The data was collected by STATSports, an Irish company based in Dundalk whose GPS software is used by 16 Premier League teams, including Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City, along with European giants Barcelona, Juventus, the English FA, the IRFU and a host lot of other teams.
Although GPS monitoring is widely used in elite sport, it's still a relatively new phenomenon which is rapidly taking root, revolutionising training and performance.
Players are fitted with tight vests and a small monitoring device is placed in a pocket of the vest on the centre of the athlete's back. The device itself is light and unobtrusive and although it's possible to recognise its outline under a jersey, it doesn't impede the players.
The devices are best known for their GPS functions, as in recording speed and distance covered, but it also has a 3D accelerometer recording every movement made as well as speed and direction, a 3D magnetometer (compass), a 3D gyroscope, which measures twisting and turning forces, a long-range radio and a heart-rate receiver.
Along with those monitors are three computer processors which are needed to save the data to the device before it's downloaded. The processors also facilitate the live function which allows analysts to get real-time information from the players at training or in games.
STATsports was founded by Louth natives Seán O'Connor and Alan Clarke in 2007. The business partners met through football and gelled over their mutual interest in sports science. They set up the business with the goal of providing a reliable analysis service within the elite sports industry.
The company started off small, distributing GPS monitors to teams around Ireland and England yet while they were taking those first steps into the market they were constantly learning, getting feedback from clients and coming up with innovative ideas to make GPS monitoring better – and also to create ways in which to advance their company.
The duo also did some work with a few inter-county football teams and then through word of mouth Leinster rugby and the IRFU came on board followed by Manchester United and Arsenal. That was only four years ago.
"Manchester United were one of the first teams to start using GPS, they inherited some old monitors then contacted us for upgrades," explains Seán O'Connor.
Now the technology forms a vital part of most serious professional teams' preparation, and especially in pre-season. It allows the coaching staff to monitor how players are performing and reacting. If they had a bad night's sleep, it can show up as their dynamic stress load will rise, or if they are getting sick the signs will be there often before the players know it for themselves.
Also because it measures running intensity and can highlight imbalances, it is a reliable indicator for a potential injury. Brett Davison, the head of physical performance for England's rugby sevens team, recently revealed that since they started using GPS they reduced soft-tissue injuries by 80 per cent in their players. This attention to detail keeps players fresh too, ensuring they are in the right shape for match days.
"Most coaches have periodised training, this means that they have every session planned out in blocks of usually six weeks. They can use the GPS to find out if they achieved what they set out to, even down to individual drills. If a coach wants something done at match intensity and it doesn't work out that way, they can change accordingly."
But coupled with this is the fact that players have nowhere to hide, if they are not putting in the effort at training it shows up in the data, the numbers don't lie.
Just over a year ago, O'Connor and Clarke developed their own monitor and software called Viper, which is manufactured in Ireland. STATSport now employs 20 people including software designers, analysts and system operators.
Along with supplying monitors they also provide a maintenance service to their clients. While some clubs buy the monitors others opt to rent and have STATSports analysts in situ at the club. Although GPS is predominantly used for training and games, it has other benefits too.
"We have been asked by teams who are interested in buying certain players if we can give them some information on their performance but we have confidentiality agreements so we can't," O'Connor says. "However, when Sunderland bought John O'Shea and Wes Brown from Manchester United, we were asked by Sunderland to ask United for some data on their new signings.
"This meant that instead of Sunderland having to spend a few weeks analysing a player to find out what they are capable of in terms of max heart rate and speed they had a ready-made profile."
O'Connor feels that the use of GPS could go to another level; when players and agents are negotiating contracts they could use their own details to prove work rate and effort or alternatively the club could use their data to counter-argue.
Although the GAA has yet to fully embrace GPS, on several occasions during this season the familiar outline of the monitor could be seen on teams like Tyrone, Cork and Dublin. Despite the rapid development of the technology, it's still in its infancy and O'Connor thinks if the GAA took ownership of it then it could benefit the game in many ways.
"There have been lots of papers done on burnout yet there is always limited physical evidence, mostly it's people's theories. But if you take a kid who is playing minor and senior with his club and also plays with his college and put one of the devices on him every time he goes out on a pitch, you would have a huge amount of data on the effect all the activity is having on his body."
It would also help counties with smaller budgets have access to new technologies and ultimately could help prevent the gulf in standards widening. From a broadcasting perspective, it could provide interesting statistics and enhance the viewing experience.
"Imagine watching a Gaelic football match and seeing a player's max speed coming up on the screen or at half-time being able to discuss the ground different players covered, even the force of contact when tackles are made. A manager doesn't lose anything by giving that kind of information to a broadcaster, that's not the type of information he is looking for."