FORMER Munster senior rugby player Jonny Holland has enjoyed a seamless transition into his new role as a performance nutritionist with the Cork senior football and hurling teams.
The former out-half, who had to retire early through injury is relishing his new role with the inter-county senior teams. “I am loving it. It’s good to be back involved in a team set-up. I didn’t think I would want to be, but being able to help players that are in a situation that I would have been in back in my rugby days is enjoyable.
“I like being able to pass on my knowledge, but also my experience of being a player and I think that holds some weight when chatting to players. Nutrition is just an aspect that can help them to improve their game through conditioning and fuelling, but it isn’t as important as their ball work or tactical information so knowing when nutrition isn’t the priority is important too.”
During his progression up through the ranks with the various Munster teams, the talented rugby ace always took a keen interest in nutrition in order to maximise his development as a player.
“I always had to be interested in my nutrition, because I was quite small growing up so I needed to put on a bit of timber. Paudie Roche helped me a lot before I got into the sub academy and I always credit him for giving me the basics before the supplements.
“At home I was always well supported with my food and encouraged to eat healthier. Before I knew I had to retire, I leaned heavily on Munster’s nutritionist Catherine Norton and she helped me to find a post-graduate course while I was playing.”
Jonny is known for his rugby prowess, but the former rugby talent was also a gifted underage player for his local club St Finbarr’s.
“I played a lot of football with St Finbarr’s, but I had to leave it after my final year at minor level. My brother is still involved there, so it was easy to keep an interest in what was going on at club level.
“I did watch a lot of football and hurling growing up, but in the last five years or so, I was fully immersed in rugby. It is great to be involved again and watching it closely because it’s something that I really enjoyed.”
Jonny began his new role with the Cork senior footballers and hurlers earlier this year. He has a varied role with the two senior inter-county teams.
“A lot of what I do is just about being present for the lads so they can ask questions in a more informal manner and learn as they go. That’s something I focused on a lot, especially since my commitments with Cork Con took a break over the summer.
“I organise the food choices with food suppliers, have one on one chats around training or off-site at my own office in Crossfit Return, advise on supplement strategies and organise those with suppliers, attend matches and training to make sure the best resources are available to the players.
“Matchday food is very important as athletes can be picky and you want to try to get things right as much as possible for them. It’s a lot harder to get a feel for what’s happening if you’re not around, so I tried to be available as much as possible.”
The former rugby star initially got involved with the Cork U20 footballers last season.
“I did a bit of work with the U20 team last year, but it wasn’t very hands-on. I pretty much went after that myself and asked if there was anybody involved with the senior team because
“I thought it was something they could improve. I didn’t force my way in, but was able to work with the younger guys. This season the footballers wanted somebody that was more available, so it was a nice progression. I did some work with CBC and one of the selectors with the hurlers is working there, Donal O’Mahony, and I ended up taking on both roles.”
With the Cork senior footballers playing three games in a four week period during the Super 8s, Jonny was working on a constant basis looking after their nutritional needs so vital given the increase in demanding games.
“In the week leading up to Tyrone it would have been a bit of a shorter week of training, because of the fatigue from the Dublin game. Adam Doyle (S&C) would have taken a bit of time off the sessions.
“They trained on Tuesday and Thursday and we travelled to Dublin on the Friday, so they were still together for a good chunk of the week. Gym sessions would take a back seat at this time of the year.
“It was just about fine-tuning and making small improvements before another big game.”