Dempsey says fitness card is overplayed in hurling

Kilkenny trainer Michael Dempsey believes there is too much emphasis placed on the fitness and conditioning of top level hurlers.

The reigning All-Ireland champions are generally accepted as the most physical team in the country.

However, the Laois native believes the importance of that aspect in the game is over-exaggerated.

“I would say all teams are as conditioned as we are. I don’t think we have any advantage.

“Obviously, we don’t want to have any disadvantage,” he said.

“Dublin would have had a serious reputation in terms of physical fitness. Other counties would have had the same in football.

“If you lose, the physical fitness is forgotten about and if you win it’s for different reasons. I think it’s fashionable to talk about the conditioning of inter-county players but I would think the majority of inter-county teams have equal levels of fitness.

“It often amuses me that a lot of people speak about conditioning but I think it goes in the order of skill number one, attitude number two, conditioning number three.”

Dempsey reckons there is a misconception about fitness of inter-county hurling team in the public arena.

“Generally speaking, in the press and in the public fitness gets a bit simplified. There are a lot of components in terms of helping players to achieve their maximum in terms of fitness.

“There’s the psychological aspect, there’s the nutritional aspect, the medical back-up, the physical back-up and there’s the training. It’s a complex area.”

As a football man and an eight-time Laois county SFC winner with St Josephs, Dempsey has a unique insight in the Kilkenny camp. He’s glad he made the crossover when he looks at what’s happened to Gaelic football.

“If I was to be honest I don’t find it as enjoyable as I used to and I’ve noticed a lot of top inter-county footballers recently said they don’t find the game as enjoyable as they used to.

“If you are in a position to drop back 13 or 14 players into your defence it does take very skilful players out of it and I think that’s very unfortunate.”

“You can say it’s just managers doing what they have to do to win games and that’s fair enough as well, but in terms of the spectacle I wouldn’t be in favour of it.”

He is convinced Kilkenny’s successes are sourced in what they can do with a hurley rather than a shoulder.

“The brilliant thing about hurling was whether it was Tipperary when they beat us two years ago, or Galway when they beat us in the past, it was just about a greater hunger and skill. Galway scored whatever number of goals against us.

“When Kilkenny have been good it’s been skill.

“People comment on other aspects of the game and obviously if you are winning on a regular basis you come under a lot of scrutiny.

“But a lot of these players are brilliant hurlers, no more than Tipperary or Galway, or Waterford, who have brought a huge amount of skill to it.”

In hurling he still favours the more skilful players, he believes they enjoy their game more than footballers.

“I’ve always noticed since I’ve become involved, hurlers just love hurling, just love pucking around and expressing themselves in terms of their skills, which is brilliant because it’s different to Gaelic football.

“To me, hurlers get huge satisfaction from control and expressing themselves and accomplishing the basic skills of the game.”

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