THE MAN WITH THE PLAN Mayo's head of strength & conditioning, Conor Finn, is pictured with Oisin Mullin and Jack Carney before the recent National League match against Clare. Pic: Sportsfile
The way I see it
THESE last two weeks for inter-county squads are the most important they’ve had so far this season.
All roads lead to ‘championship weeks’ and even in the height of the National League, there’s always one player peering around the corner at the serious end of the season.
Ideally you need your full squad in tip-top shape by the time the final ball in the National League is kicked, but that scenario is as likely as seeing a Mayo team named without any changes.
The fortnight post-Clare will have been a fine balancing act of attempting to ramp up the intensity and then de-load in a short space of time. It’s almost like fitting a square peg into a round hole given the limited time, but every minute of every day will be engineered for the first championship outing.
Over the past week I’ve been talking to some of my sources involved in inter-county squads in the Connacht championship, trying to flesh out a roadmap of what the likes of Mayo’s Lee Keegan, Aidan O’Shea, Oisin Mullin and co will be doing exactly to prepare for their championship opener.
It’s pretty intense stuff.
Two weeks out
MONDAY’S session is dependent on what preceded it in terms of football over the weekend, but most likely the Mayo players will be in the gym.
How much game time they got against Clare will determine their rep and set ranges, working primarily on upper body strength work and power.
There could be a top-up cardio session on an exercise bike to finish out Monday’s session.
Tuesday or Wednesday the players will be on the field for a session that can last up to 90 minutes, involving game-based drills and a lot of running based activity.
The unfortunates who see no (or little) game time will be doing the extra conditioning at the end of that time too.
Generally there’s a 55 minute rule in terms of game time and avoiding the dreaded ‘tempos’.
There might even be post gym-work after that!
They can expect a full gym session on the Wednesday with some rehab work afterwards and the following night will be a day off, but they’re expected to do some form of active recovery.
Friday night lights is a shorter session of around 70 minutes, and the players will do gym work before they get on the field, focusing on power-based exercises.
There’ll be video anaylsis, both collective and individually, thrown in somewhere during the week too, and more could potentially follow on Saturday.
Sunday is the AvB game, helter-skelter, and their last opportunity to stake a claim for a starting position, before heading into the gym after.
IT’S back into the gym on Monday evening ahead of championship next weekend, but the session will be very much tapered and less strenuous.
The hard work is now done, and Tuesday’s pitch session will be no longer than 70 minutes and any hard-running is avoided, with more focus on tactics, and short intensive drills.
Another light gym session follows that on Wednesday evening, before a pitch session that lasts less than 60 minutes, involves tactical work and shape, with some short sprinting to finish off.
Game time comes on Saturday or Sunday.
WHEN you read what inter-county footballers are actually doing to ensure they’re ready for championship, the level of detail and commitment required is quite eye-opening.
And it’s not just the Mayos and the Kerrys and the Dublins who are working off schedules similar to that, that’s the bare minimum of what is required from an inter-county team.
So imagine doing all that if you’re one of the ‘so-called lesser counties’, probably in the knowledge that you might not make it past the first round.
It’s incredible commitment and gives us some understanding of how these players are in such fantastic shape from a physical point of view.
If you’re not putting that in, well then you’re more than likely going to get left behind, and in the GAA, we all know there is nothing worse than the preconceived notion of being ‘left behind’.
Is it sustainable? Well, probably not if you’ve little to no chance of winning.