Cork hurling manager John Meyler has consulted his son, Ireland soccer international David, about preparing for the intense Munster SHC round-robin format.
“Forget about it the minute it is over,” was the pro’s advice, says Meyler Sr.
“Forget about it at 5 p.m when the game is over. That’s really it.
“That is about the first element of professionalism I’ve seen within the GAA. You play the match against Clare, the match could be over at 4 p.m or whatever — then you forget about it, you focus on your next match. Thirty seconds later you move on.”
It’s the professional way — to look forward?
“Yeah, if there is feedback and recovery on Monday morning, they might look back at the match to see the positives, but you have to focus on the next game which will be Tipperary the following Sunday. There are
challenges for players and management about how to deal with that (schedule).”
It’s a change for GAA players, who are accustomed to looking back on games.
“You’ve probably spent the last 20 years looking back on the games that you’ve lost,” says Meyler.
“Certainly this won’t be the case now. Last year we played Tipperary in the first match and we had four weeks to Waterford in the semi-final. So the week post Tipperary you were reflecting on the match — now it’s about recovery and looking to who is on next Sunday as distinct to looking back. There will be a lot of looking forward.
“That is the unknown, that is the challenge for management, the challenge for players. It is exciting from that point of view.
“You can’t have any hang-ups over a match the previous Sunday because it is over, there is really nothing you can do. Who is on next Sunday? That is the one thing I’ve learned from him (David), he couldn’t even tell me who he played last Sunday.
“It’s over, move on.”
There are work-life challenges for GAA players, however.
“Again, that is the challenge — the Monday is now critical. Before guys would probably have taken the day off, calmed down, settled after the game.
“That can’t happen now because you have to recover. You need guys in on the Monday as you are out again the following Sunday. Challenges are there, both mental and physical.
“There is tremendous pressure on players and management, but from the point of view of supporters and the general public it is going to be exciting to see Cork play four Sundays out of five.
“That is what people want and if you gain momentum you’ll get more support like what happened in Thurles last year. The Cork crowd grew from the first match against Tipp to Waterford to Clare. Thurles was full last year with probably 30,000 or 40,000 Cork people in red jerseys. Winning brings momentum, and matches on Sunday after Sunday brings momentum as well.”
Cork have prepared well, he adds, though he points out that different counties implemented the ‘April for clubs’ rule differently: “You just have to plan for it. That is the way it would always have been traditionally. Clubs got 10 or 12 days before their championship match in Cork — which they did.
“I don’t think there is any great difference (with the club month). It is unclear because if you read between the lines in different counties there was a different interpretation of the club month or whatever way you want to put it.
“Some people had it as clubs-only, but there was a different interpretation put on it really.”
Meyler’s in favour of the new format, however.
“It gives a series of games, it gives a structure of games. People know when they are playing matches, it is much easier to plan.
“I think if the club fixtures were the same in the month of April or whatever — it is much easier to plan when there is certainty over fixtures.”
The downside to the new system is two counties will be gone by June, however: “That is what was voted in, that is what is there and it is what we have to make do with.”
Is it worth the trade-off — more games versus a county possibly losing out through scoring difference?
“I don’t know. Ask me that in the middle of June and I will come back to you.
“I think it is new, it is exciting, it is novel, a series of games and I think the GAA need to structure the games tighter, run the games off quicker.
“It is the same with the club. At times there is too long a period between the National Hurling League and the inter-county championship. We need to shorten the gap.
“It (scoring difference) is a culture change, I’ve had this before in third level where you’ve lost a place in a quarter-final or a semi-final by .02 of a point in scoring difference.
“I remember ourselves and Galway in Freshers hurling years ago, and it’s cruel. A wide in the last minute could be critical or crucial how they decide that. It is the format that was voted in. That’s it.”
Does it dilute Munster Championship?
“No, I think it’s new and exciting. You will have two matches in every county in this format. The people who support, the businesses sponsoring giving time, effort, and money, county boards — they are going to gain, to benefit out of that so they will see the benefit.
“It will need to be evaluated in the middle or end of June to see how it has gone with all the matches. The attendances and all of that.
“The fourth and fifth team in the Munster Championship, it is tough on them, but that is the way it is.”
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