Former Cork All-Ireland winner and newly-appointed Limerick coach has produced results to prove that professional Australian footballers are leaner, fitter and stronger than their Irish counterparts, writes Jackie Cahill.
As part of his studies for a Masters in Strength and Conditioning, Kissane compared the fitness of elite inter-county players and a selection of AFL stars.
Kissane is hopeful that his results will soon be published as a journal paper and he believes that what he’s learned can help in his new role alongside manager Billy Lee in Limerick, particularly from a nutritional viewpoint.
Kissane, who won an All-Ireland senior medal with Cork in 2010, explained: “If you’re not carrying excess weight, you’ll have greater endurance.
“The majority of inter-county players train really well and look after themselves but that’s (nutrition) an area in the off-season that would let down some players.
“I compared the fitness of elite inter-county players and the AFL. It’s something I’ve always been curious about and every couple of years, they play each other.
“I’ve often wondered how can an amateur compete against a professional?
“It turned out as I’d expected, that the Australian players are leaner, fitter, stronger.
“It’s interesting to have the data as to what the differences are, to help my programming going forward. The big thing would actually be the body fat of the AFL players, the leanness of them.
“Professional athletes have huge aerobic demands and it’s hugely important to have low body and fat and be lean. The majority are Gaelic players are but I find over the winter, it can be a battle.
“Players on professional contracts know that when they return to pre-season training, there’s a contract on the line and money at stake. There are different expectations as such.
“AFL players also have that massive endurance but then again, their game is longer and it’s a bigger area, so that would be expected.
“And as part of their talent identification, they would be looking at players who might have experience of athletics and triathlons, who have exposure to endurance at a young age.”
Kissane never had the chance to represent Ireland at International Rules level but he can see why counties are concerned by the perceived ‘poaching’ of top young stars by Australian clubs.
He said: “I can totally see if you’re from a county like Tipp, who lost Colin O’Riordan, and more recently Kerry, with Mark O’Connor gone away, how you want to keep your best young players but at the same time, if I was 18 years of age and somebody offered me a professional contract and felt I was good enough to get a shot, how could you turn that down?
“No matter which side of the fence you’re on, there are going to be pros and cons, and different opinions on it. I just think it’s a great opportunity for lads.”
Kissane, who worked with the Clare footballers in 2014, is relishing his return to the inter-county scene.
He runs his own business, PK Athlete Development and Performance, and is aiming to improve standards in Limerick football following relegation back to Division 4.
Kissane said: “I was involved with Clare in 2014 and at that time, they were in Division 4 and looking to improve. So it’s similar enough in ways – I know you have different players in different counties but that experience will stand to me.
“As a management team, we have to believe we can make them better and gain improvement. Last year was a disappointing year – they put in a big effort but results didn’t go their way. All you want is management believing they can get improvement and players that want to get better. That want to win – that’s what it’s all about. At inter-county level, every team and management have to think like that.”