Championship Preview: Something new and shiny for 2015

Is that the new thing now? Each season, inter-county management search for the extra inch. Rule-makers strive for the perfect rule And players do whatever it takes to win (in comfortable socks, of course). Here’s a few innovations for the Championship. Sort of.

Championship Preview: Something new and shiny for 2015

Kerry’s GPS system

Kerry has become the first county to introduce a fully-integrated GPS programme for its entire senior football squad this season, measuring load and general wellness. Sports scientist Jason McGahan is doing a PhD at Cork IT on the data.

Long seasons and overworked players are creating fresh challenges for coaches in terms of balancing recovery with developing and maintaining physical fitness. Ensuring adequate rest and recovery is important to avoid over-training and achieve optimal performance. McGahan says it’s crucial training load and recovery be continually monitored during the training year.

Says Cork-based McGahan: “Elite GAA players may be at increased risk of over-training as they tend to play on multiple teams (club, college, county) and dual codes. Therefore the work being carried out this year with Kerry - monitoring training load and markers of wellness, using a subjective online player monitoring tool and objective GPS devices - will assist coaches to develop specific training programmes.” With the Athlete Monitoring tool ‘Metrifit’, data is entered before any scheduled activity, usually in private and at a constant time each morning. This online tool asks players to subjectively record training load on the previous day and to rate their wellness scores. Training load is calculated based on time spent in training/games multiplied by perceived intensity based on the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale.

Wellness scores are based on rating sleep, energy, mood, appetite, soreness and sickness on a daily basis from 1 (bad as possible) to 5 (good as possible). Explains McGahan, who is conducting the programme under the supervision of Kerry coach Dr Cian O’Neill: “We use GPS to measure variables including distance covered, maximum velocity, high acceleration efforts and distance covered at specified speed zones. Each player has his own GPS device and is asked to wear VX 230 GPS tracking devices for all competitive games and all training sessions during the competitive season.”

Speed hills next step to success

Last week, Armagh’s strength and conditioning coach Julie Davis tweeted a photograph with the caption: “The steps are in... New speed hill taking shape”.

The Orchard County, it seems, are putting to-gether their own version of Rocky’s Art Mu-seum steps in Philadelphia. It’s been said by ?t-ness experts that hills are speed work in dis-guise. Coming in three ranges from short 17-step version to a bigger eight-step version, Davis is hoping they provide Kieran McGee-ney’s men on the climb to glory.

The championship’s newest dual-sport stadium

Name the last Cork ground other than Páirc Uí Chaoimh to host senior championship football? Have a think about that while we fill you in on the next one. On June 14, Cork will host either Clare or Limerick and, due to the renovation works at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, they will do so at Páirc Uí Rinn.

For those who take note of such things, it will become the second sta-dium — after Croke Park —to host senior Gaelic football as well as an international game in the association code, Ireland having played Spain there in 1985 when the ground was still known as Flower Lodge. Come to that, we can’t think of any other championship venues bought by the GAA with the proceeds of a Michael Jackson concert either.

By the way, the last non-Páirc Uí Chaoimh Cork venue? Fermoy, which hosted Limerick’s 2008 win over Tipperary.

Modified Deadlift (MDL)

From the Squat. To the Lunge. To the modified deadlift or MDL. One of the best exercises an athlete can do to strengthen muscles in the lower back, glutes and upper hamstrings, according to chartered physiotherapist, Eddie Harnett, who treats and advises All-Ireland foot-ball champions, Kerry.

“These three areas combine to form the main part of the ‘rear chain’,” he says. “Many athletes tend to ignore the ‘rear chain’ in their gym programmes with some-times devastating consequences. Instead we over-con-centrate — hence overload — the ‘anterior chain’ whichconsists of abs, groin muscles and quads. This under-development versus over-develop-ment of muscles can cause serious injuries in the pelvic region and beyond.

“We now know that persistent overloading on the front of our bodies is a main factor in developing hip joint disorders which in turn can lead to pubic bone stress injuries, groin tears, abdominal wall tears and hip flexo muscle dysfunction. Weak lower back muscles can predispose us to lumbar disc injuries and stress fractures.”

The MDL, when done under supervision and with precise technique, can help reduce the above pathologies and address these injuries if they occur.

The rise of the skills coach

The Cork influence with the Dublin hurlers goes beyond Ger Cunningham. His right-hand man is another from Leeside, Dr Ed Coughlan of CIT, highly respected for his work as S&C coach to the Mayo footballers under James Horan. His scope there didn’t extend to another area of his ex-pertise: skills acquisition.

Cunningham has given him such licence to the point he’s become more than a skills coach but essentially the team’s field coach after Tommy Dunne departed due to study commitments. And going by Mark Schutte’s comments at a recent press day, the Dublin players are finding Coughlan is giving them an edge.

“We’ve never had a coach like this before,” he’d say. “He is very technical in the way he ap-proaches his work as a skills coach.

Drones have landed

After the curious case of the Donegal man in the tree in Killarney last September, it was poignant that just a few days beforehand Jim McGuin-ness jokingly mentioned drones being used as a meansof spying on teams.

However, “the eye in the sky” is now a genuine method of analysing one’s own team, as illustrated by St Mary’s University in their Ryan Cup final defeat to DCU in Armagh last December. “It can be beneficial for all sports but for Gaelic games in particular because you can see different patterns of play around the pitch that you don’t get from ground level,” said Gerd Curley, who operated the drone for the Belfast college. “It’s a totally different ball game.”

Waving imaginary cards

How is it we haven’t seen it yet? Or if we have seen it, how is it the Absolute Disgrace merchants haven’t made a film out of it? Having im-ported, at this stage, just about every form of cynicism it has discovered around the sporting world, and developed many more in house, surely this, finally, is the year Gaelic football embraces the waving of imaginary cards.

Why the need for it, you might ask, with no obvious language barrier between players and officials? But the noble art of mime is already accepted currency in disciplinary negotiations, as we saw, for instance, when Donnchadh Walsh treated the referee to a theatrical interpretation of Lee Keegan’s kick.

So it is time the cynics, if they have anything about them, kicked on with this one, and honed their theatrical flourishing and brandishing. We await with interest the tweaks needed to make it clear it’s an imaginary black card they are waving.

The hurling penalty retake

Anthony Daly believes the one-on-one penalty is going to be a big chatting point this summer. “The rules have been clearly changed to state that the keeper may not advance off his line to meet the strike of the taker, who has seven metres to play with, but must have struck the ball before the 20m line. How will this be policed?”

Adds our columnist: “The natural instinct of any brave keeper will be to step out and face the shot — he has grown up on this basis — but will one step forward by him necessitate a retake?

“Will it be a linesman or an umpire who decides this? We all wanted a system that would clear up this so called ‘Nash Rule’ but I believe this will surface during the championship and will definitely decide a big game. The five-sec-ond advantage rule could be massive also and the whole ‘there’s nothing wrong with hurling’ brigade will be out in force but the one-on-one penalty could define the season.”

TV up the technology ante

RTÉ will be flying high with drones and will be releasing behind-the-scenes Sunday Game footage via Twitter and Instagram. Meanwhile. the technical boffins at Sky Sports have been working overtime to upgrade their software pack-ages for their second season of Championship action.

Star names — Peter Canavan and Jamesie O’Connor — have helped to tweak and improve the stats systems which will aid them in their analysis of games.

The system will allow for mapping of player movement, not unlike the heat mapping in the Premier League, and tracking of how scores are created and restarts from goalkeepers. As producer Ciarán O’Hara explained: “We are using the same basic tools as last year but all have been upgraded and improved on. This technology allows us to tell a different nar-rative.”


We’ve seen GAA players wear white cotton socks over their GAA socks for a few years now (eg Paul Galvin) The evolution of this trend is Trusox, a sock with grips on the heel and sole to help ensure stability in the boot.

Popular with tennis players and with soccer teams such as Bayern Munich and Real Madrid where players cut the soles off their club sock and use tape to affix the Trusox. Some Mayo and Dublin players— Jonny Cooper for instance — have been seen in them to date and expect popularity to spiral over the summer.

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