I had an enjoyable chat last week with Ger Carmody, the IRFU’s head of operations.

If you wonder what someone like that does, consider the thoughts of another member of Irish rugby’s backroom team, who told me that if he had to move to another country he’d simply hand Carmody his keys and ask for a figure he wanted to be paid.

In the course of that chat Carmody gave an insight into the level of pre-planning and preparation that’s needed both generally and specifically, something you might have seen in Saturday’s newspapers. But for reasons of space not every nugget got fished out of the river. In the course of a chat about hotels, for instance, Carmody detailed what he looks for in a hotel.

“There are plenty of considerations,” Carmody told me.

“Is there space for the team room? Are there circular tables, is there a buffet-style table, is there a team analysis area set up theatre-style for 30 to 40 players?

“Do they have projectors on site? Is there space for individual analysis areas for players, for coaches?

“Then you have to have a leisure area with a big-screen TV, pool, darts for the players.

“A medical area for the team doctors, two physios, two masseurs, double beds for the treatment and strapping.

“There’s got to be a media area - usually away from the players’ function space - for the press conferences. And we’d usually have a boardroom area for the coaches to select the team in privacy.”

Carmody added a few more necessary inclusions - he and Sinead Bennett, another member of the logistics staff, usually set up “a little operations office”, to work out the daily details of the team stay.

That can mean working out precisely what the team needs from the hotel, for instance.

Key thing

“The key thing when you meet staff in the hotel is to talk through the operation of that - the quality of the nutrition, for instance, is very important, so our nutritionist, Ruth Wood-Martin, would meet the chefs to make sure they understand the quality of food that’s required - and quantity - and that they can meet our schedule for that food.

“They’re big boxes to tick for the players - good food, good beds and good WiFi, they’re always on their phones.”

No matter how good the facilities on-site, though, proximity to the venue is another consideration.

“Convenience is a big consideration. You can find any number of fantastic hotels in and around London, obviously, but if it’s a two-hour drive to Twickenham then that’s not going to work either.

“You’ve also got to make sure you have good hospital facilities near to the hotel, good training facilities. Those are key factors when you’re considering a base.

“You’re talking about a working hotel and a match hotel, really. The working hotel is somewhere like Carton House, where the lads train the week of the game; the city hotel is somewhere like the Shelbourne, where you’re based for the game itself.

“For the working hotel, then, you’re looking for a good quality of pitch surface for training, and an elite gym for the players. If possible you’re also looking to have access to an indoor facility if the weather turns bad, which happened to us this year.”

Hang on. The difference between an elite gym and a hotel fitness centre?

“A hotel gym wouldn’t really do it for the team. Don’t forget you could have forty lads training at one time, and they’re using stuff that’s heavier than you’d get in a hotel fitness centre. We have a gym in Carton House, and we can use the facilities at Abbottstown and Jason Cowman, our strength and conditioning coach, would ensure that the lads have access to a range of weights that Joe Public wouldn’t be using.”

You know when players talk about attention to detail? Now you know.

<h2>Camogie’s missed opportunity</h2>

Manchester United are to start a professional women’s soccer team, the last of the top six clubs in the Premier League to do so, apparently.

Clearly this is a good thing, as Manchester United are an internationally-recognised virus — sorry, ‘brand’, to use what the Big Lebowski called the parlance of our times.

Because United are such a big deal, this is good news for women’s sport generally and therefore something we can all support.

However, commitment to equality needs to go beyond lip service. While it was encouraging on this side of the Irish Sea to have memorandums of understanding circulating between the GAA, LGFA and the Camogie Association, it was disappointing to see the All-Ireland camogie senior and intermediate club finals moved from Croke Park to Clones.

This is no insult to Clones, a fine town in its own right, but I doubt its strongest advocates would compare an outing on the field there with lining out in the big house in Jones’s Road.

For the players of Slaughneil, Sarsfields, Athenry and Johnstownbridge it’s an opportunity missed, and one which may not come again.

Manchester United are to start a professional women’s soccer team, the last of the top six clubs in the Premier League to do so, apparently.

<h2>Support needed for Jack’s cause</h2>

The small details that land the biggest rewards

Last week you may have been alerted to a cause that needs your support - Jack O’Driscoll, a young sportsman from Mayfield who suffered a freak accident during the recent bad weather.

His gofundme page states: “On March 1, 2018 prior to the red alert for Storm Emma, Jack was out in the snow with friends in Mayfield. An awkward fall resulted in Jack fracturing his C5 vertebrate in his neck. This left Jack paralysed from the chest down.”

Jack was brought to Cork University Hospital after the accident, but his injury meant he had to be transferred to Dublin for surgery in the Mater Hospital, where he’s currently in the High Dependency Unit (HDU).

He faces a tough road ahead in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, but you can help a little if you go to:


<h2>New director-general of GAA is well able</h2>

Best wishes to Tom Ryan, the new director-general of the GAA — the hot seat has plenty of challenges but the man from Carlow is an able dealer based on this column’s dealings with him.

I spoke to Tom for the book GAAconomics a few years ago and he articulated some notions of GAA identity better than anybody else.

“If you interpret professionalism as running things properly,” he said then.

“In the right way, then that’s the way everything has to be run, down to your own club, never mind the GAA as a whole.

“That’s a world away from professionalism as many people understand the term, but it’s a good discipline for the GAA to have.”

Best wishes to Tom Ryan, the new director-general of the GAA — the hot seat has plenty of challenges but the man from Carlow is an able dealer based on this column’s dealings with him.


John’s chairs will last a lifetime, but he is also passing on his knowledge to a new generation, writes Ellie O’Byrne.Made in Munster: The ancient art of súgán-making is woven into Irish family history

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