DICK CLERKIN: No rest for the wicked as duty with club calls

Between the Olympic Games and the All-Ireland senior hurling semi-finals, Gaelic football hasn’t featured prominently on too many radars over the last few weeks.

Likewise, many counties have a fortnight’s break from club action around this time of year to allow for holidays. At the start of July every county team is still in action, yet after the August Bank Holiday Monday, only four teams remain. Twenty-eight teams culled in five weekends of action. Brutal isn’t the word. So, after seven - okay, let’s be honest - nine months of hard training, meetings, video analysis, strict diets, everything grinds to a sudden halt.

So as the title contenders go about their business preparing for their respective semi-final showdowns, the rest of us are busy trying to re-acclimatise to normal life outside the inter-county dressing room.

Once congested weekly schedules are now eerily vacant, and players are free to indulge their vices. I can again have biscuits with my tea and dessert on Sundays! In most other sports players are afforded the time to come down from their competitive peak, and give the body and mind a well earned rest ahead of the next season. But in the GAA world, players aren’t afforded much time to lick their inter-county wounds as they are thrust into club championship action almost straight away; in many cases the week after their county is eliminated from the All-Ireland series.

Over the past few years I have found this inter-county to club adjustment more difficult than I did when I was younger. I wrote earlier in the year about my lifestyle changes that were required in order to effectively balance my sporting, personal and professional demands. All in all it went pretty well but as soon as Monaghan’s season ended, everything fell flat on its face. I couldn’t look at a gym for weeks, my diet went to pot and I had little motivation to do any meaningful training. I knew I needed to lift myself for the club, but I felt if I forced the issue, I would just prolong the dip. In many of the club league games we played since, I certainly didn’t feel like someone who had spent the last eight months on a strict regime.

I put most of it down to the way Monaghan’s season finished, especially the Ulster semi-final defeat to Down. It’s difficult to instantly look forward when so many harsh memories are fresh in the mind. I’ve learned that time is the only remedy in this regard. Age is another likely contributor to the lull; I’d be lying if I told you this business gets any easier as the years go on! Thankfully though, things are back on track in recent weeks. The gym aches have returned and I have found renewed motivation on the diet front from my younger sister Alice, who would put any top performing athlete to shame such is the discipline of her new eating regime.

This weekend the club is looking forward to a senior championship quarter-final against Paul Finlay’s Ballybay. After our shock opening round win over Scotstown, our card is now firmly marked, but it’s great to still be in championship action at the end of August.

Its only when you get out of the inter-county bubble that you realise for many Gaels, the All-Ireland series is just a glamorous side show; club life is where the real action is at this time of year. This is our club’s first year up playing senior football, so it’s a great new experience for everyone involved.

Whatever about my ambitions with Monaghan, for my club mates this is the peak of their footballing calendar, or even their careers. With that in mind, it’s time to stop feeling sorry for myself and get back on the saddle for another championship campaign. Currin Abu!


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