His displeasure at the lack of basic skills might have been an old bugbear for a new season, but he wasn’t alone in pointing out the frequency with which players in Pearse and Breffni Parks succumbed to cramps.
Surely, he said, it wasn’t too much to ask for a basic level of fitness from players in this day and age. Considering the amount of training inter-county players go through, he seemed to have a point.
Dara Ó’Cinnéide attempted to remind everyone that two of the teams, Longford and Cavan, were making a considerable step up to championship pace from the slower lane that is division two football.
John Barry from UCD’s Institute of Sport agreed with the younger Kerryman.
“The jump from the level these teams were playing at, especially in Division Two, to the championship shouldn’t be underestimated,” said Barry, who has worked with the Cork footballer’s for the last three seasons.
“I wasn’t surprised to see a number of players cramping up, especially on day one, but I would be surprised if you were to see that happen to teams like Kerry or Dublin later in the year.
“That said, cramp can and does happen at any time.”
Five weeks have elapsed since the last round of league fixtures, but that may not have been sufficient time for players to build up their anaerobic thresholds in training. Playing with their clubs in the meantime means they’ve gone from higher intensity games to lower intensity games in the same short period.
Cramp is caused by a build-up of lactic acid in the muscle. Even in low intensity exercise, there is a build-up of lactic acid, but the body is usually able to use some and dispose of the rest. During long or intense exercise, there could be insufficient oxygen in the muscles to recycle the lactic acid which builds up and causes cramps.
“There are loads of reasons why cramp can happen and scientists don’t know all of them,” said Barry. “The weather can be a factor, especially if it’s hot and players are sweating more. Remember, the games these players have been playing for most of the league were in much cooler conditions.
“Hydration is a huge factor. Players will have managed their fluids all week but people can become agitated or nervous on match days, causing them to urinate more, and they may not drink enough to replace what’s lost.”