Opening up his International Rules file from 2011, it was a matter of seconds before he had Aidan Walsh and Eoin Cadogan’s results in front of him.
The Fermanagh native didn’t need much reminding of just how well the dual stars performed fitness-wise in the build-up to that year’s tests, when he was the strength and conditioning coach to Anthony Tohill’s side.
Walsh’s numbers had astounded him. “Phenomenal,” McGurn says.
The 24-year-old was top of the class aerobically. As part of the preparations for the successful trip to Australia, McGurn had the players doing 240m runs in the shape of an ‘M’. It comprised an 80m sprint straight followed by a sharp turn and 40m diagonally, another sharp turn and another 40m diagonally, finishing with a final 80m. Each player was asked to finish the prescription in under 45 seconds and the average time of the panel was 44.5 seconds. Walsh was averaging between 39.5 to 40 seconds, sometimes going as low as 38.5.
“To run like that, recover and go again,” recalls McGurn, “what an |incredible engine. We were comparing him to Mickey Quinn, Zach Tuohy and Tommy Walsh who were after a full AFL season, and he just blew them out of the water.
“There was this idea the AFL guys would be so far ahead of our boys at home, but that wasn’t the case. I remember the last test we did in Carton House and Zach saying about Aidan: ‘That boy’s an animal.’
“Clearly, being a dual player has helped him and if he hasn’t been doing one thing, he’s been doing another. He looks after himself. He has very low body fat, his skin folds are very small.”
As a full back, Cadogan’s International Rules fitness tests were different to Walsh’s. “The way Anthony [Tohill] and myself planned training, we realised the middle third players had different roles to the inside-backs.
“So we had them running hard for seven seconds, seeing how far they could reach in that time, and they then jogged back. Simulating what they would do in games. Cads was in the top 5%, averaging around 52m. Like Aidan, he minds himself. He’s doing a strength and conditioning course. He knows his body.”
McGurn, who runs his own elite sport training business, is currently training five athletes for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Sunday is Walsh’s fifth inter-county game for Cork in six weeks, although he only played half the footballers’ semi-final against Tipperary. But Sunday week’s Munster hurling final will be his sixth fixture in seven, and that excludes lining out for Kanturk’s hurlers in last week’s intermediate first round championship game, which went to extra-time.
McGurn, though, has little fear of Walsh’s ability to handle the schedule. “I imagine in Cork they’re being very well managed. There are good guys there in charge of those things, so I would expect that.
“I imagine there’s a one-training approach fitting both codes. With Aidan playing midfield for both the footballers and the hurlers and bombing up and down the pitch, I couldn’t see him falling between two sets of training. It’s about a smart approach and I’m sure that’s what Cork are doing.
“Aidan would have lived with Michael Murphy in DCU for awhile last year too and he’d know the importance of recovery. At this time of year, it’s all about minding yourself. You’re in the routine of playing, recovering, playing, recovering. Playing matches gets you as fit as anything else.”