WATCH AND LEARN Some Breaffy supporters are pictured watching Breaffy play Garrymore in the Michael Walsh Secondary League last July. The 2021 Mayo GAA club season begins this week. Pic: Sportsfile
The way I see it
BY the time this column goes to print, our first challenge match of the year with the club will be done and dusted and this writer will probably be waking up with pains and creaks in places I had forgotten existed.
Even though the intensity of training has ramped up over the past few weeks, there’s no substitute for match intensity. No amount of training, tackle boxes or A v B training games can give a true reflection of the physical and mental exertion in games.
Challenge games are still only an appetiser on a scale of measurement in the overall scheme of things, but when pickings are slim, they have much greater effect.
When club football is back in full swing, time’s stock market price surges. It’s as precious a commodity as gold. You almost forget how time-consuming playing football can be.
Take the last week for example: you train Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, followed by a game on Bank Holiday Monday. We tried to get it changed to Sunday, but the powers-that-be don’t want us enjoying a Bank Holiday weekend!
In between those days you want to be squeezing in a couple of maintenance gym sessions, (AM or PM), whatever works for your schedule.
I do wonder about what I would be doing with my spare time if I existed in a parallel universe. And would that mean me being as happy in that hypothetical existence?
My hypothesis suggests he (or I) would not be!
Recently-retired Sligo footballer, Neil Ewing, told Irish Examiner recently that committing all the time required to play inter-county football was something he never perceived as a sacrifice. That’s a prayer I like to preach myself, looking upon the time representing your club as a privilege.
Right, enough of the philosophical stuff.
Covid-ball has now become the norm to such an extent that it’s difficult to think back on more normal times, what the mechanics were like then, and what’s better or worse.
The lack of dressing-rooms right now is null and void really; you come togged out to training and get going without any fuss. You can stand around on the pitch and gossip all you want there if you need that fix.
Albeit no dressing-rooms are a hindrance when games are on and you’re not allowed access, particularly if it’s raining. But clubs are well prepared these days for all eventualities.
The greatest chore of the new normal of football is remembering to fill out your health questionnaire before training. Our Covid officer in Balla, Neil Sheridan, was renowned for his man-marking skills during his playing career, and he’s carried that talent to his new role, ensuring everything is above board!
Fixing the fixtures
THERE’S been some criticism around the Mayo GAA fixture schedule laid out for this club season; I for one was beating on the drum in these pages around it recently.
Some has been rational, other criticism has overshot the runway, in my opinion.
The biggest gripe with a lot of people I have been talking to seems to be that there’s going to be no league football until August and that the god-forsaken divisional cups (have they not been banished yet?) are going ahead in the first few months.
That means us West Mayo teams are going to get a minimum of four competitive (ish) games until August. Those fixtures will take you into mid-July, maybe later, before league commences in Autumn time.
If Mayo make an early exit from championship, then those dates will be brought forward.
So when you strip it all back, to me it’s not worth getting up in arms over.
The mindset of most club players I’ve been speaking to is that they’re gearing up for August, enjoying being back right now, easing themselves into the grind, and making sure the body is right when it needs to be.
It’s going to be helter-skelter come August, so now is the time to fine-tune.
Rushing back to play competitive league football next week is a recipe to cause injuries. Look at the inter-county scene now, hamstrings are being pulled like they’re going out of fashion.
That competition was rushed from start to finish and counties are now going to pay the price for that. It’s not even going to come to a conclusion from Mayo’s point of view – which is a complete farce.
And let’s not forget about this ‘split-season’ we all burned stakes for, for so long.
In my understanding, a split-season means a divide between club and county. Not an overlap, like what caused traditional consternation for so long in the game.
A split-season allows clubs to have their county players at their disposal for league and championship football. That raises the standard of games and players in the county all round, and lets the club game spread its chest without bumping into its older brother.
Roll on August!