Valleys passed the April experiment but must now wait for Cork's season to conclude

Valleys passed the April experiment but must now wait for Cork's season to conclude
Valley Rovers' Eoin O'Reilly racing onto the ball from Blarney's Cormac O'Mahony. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

CLUB month of April: a manager’s perspective. 

More or less every senior and intermediate club in football and hurling got their championship run out in the last four weeks. Several high-achieving dual clubs squeezed a game of each into the schedule, the Newcestown-Barr’s senior hurling game last weekend for example was between two dual senior clubs who’d been out a fortnight earlier in senior football. 

One club went into overdrive, managing to cram three championship matches – one preliminary round senior football, one first round senior football seven days later, one premier intermediate hurling first round – into the four weeks. Valley Rovers have upwards of 13 dual players and get this, a dual manager as well. Yep, April was fairly busy for Ger Slyne, in charge of both the football and hurling sides in Innishannon this year.

As it happened, they won all three games (and by the way, very few of the clubs who competed in both hurling and football over the month happened to win both), blitzing Mallow and then Newcestown in the football with three goals in each game and then having too much for Blarney in the hurling last weekend, winning 2-14 to 0-11. 

As you’d expect, Valleys are tending to look at the experience of April in a positive way right now. Slyne laughs, “Well it’s worked out for us anyway.” 

Was it a challenge though? Slyne won’t overplay the logistical or physical demands. 

“I suppose it actually helps that we’re a very dual club with so many players involved in both and we train together as a whole group. The biggest difficulty coming up to championship was probably the weather, with games hard to find, pitches unavailable and we ended up training on all-weather pitches a few times which wasn’t ideal.” 

The dual aspect works as it’s always worked for a club who run both so effectively. The teams were back training on the 9th January and have had maybe 35-40 training session since then. In game week focus falls on whatever they’re playing at the weekend, with hurlers expected to come to football training and footballers expected to show and do their bit if it’s mainly a hurling session. 

But really there’s not an issue with switching from one game to the other in short bursts because this is basically how it’s always been for players who’ve grown up with both games side-by-side. Valley Rovers started the football league on the first weekend of February and have played five actual Kelleher Shield games, plus the championship game with Mallow which double-counted as league.

Valley Rovers' Fiachra Lynch. Picture: Larry Cummins
Valley Rovers' Fiachra Lynch. Picture: Larry Cummins

They started the hurling league on the 13th March and have played five games. That’s 12 league and championship games in three months for the same bunch of players more or less. 

As Slyne points out, the break from football with a week of hurling (or vice-versa) keeps players fresh and gives them a different voice to listen to, with two different actual football and hurling coaches involved. 

And physically, was it a big ask for the players? 

“Honestly, they’re a very motivated bunch and they were up for each game right throughout the month of April. They’re tough lads. At the start of the year maybe some of the younger lads found the slog of strength and conditioning work tough on the heavy weather and pitches, where the older lads would be used to it. 

"But they were at that high level for the whole month of games, it wasn’t a worry for us to get them to a certain intensity or we didn’t need to get them up for each game as they tend to do that themselves naturally. 

"We were lucky enough with injuries in that we didn’t really pick up anything serious with players either. In between the championship matches it was just ticking over with ball work and then after the second football game, we had a hurling league match against Aghada and then the championship game with Blarney right away so there was no time to drop off.” 

There’s no denying April was full on. If you’ve ever spoken to the manager of the local club you’ll have some idea of the time commitments involved and you can multiply that by two here for Slyne – there was a definite sense of relief last weekend after the hurling first round game was won. 

His first reaction when the idea was put to him late last year was that it seemed crazy and he refers to himself as a guinea pig in this experiment. And yet, it’s taken away the push and pull hassle of one manager wanting players for football and the other wanting the same players for hurling.

Slyne consults the notebook he constantly keeps nearby, calls out the league schedule for football and hurling games over the next two months and notes a lot of away games coming up. 

The Valley Rovers players got this week off with a lot of them heading off to Ed Sheehan in the Páirc with instructions to enjoy the weekend before training starts again. Club month April has been pretty good for this club and manager anyway. 

“Look, it has, though the winning helped obviously. If we were heading into a backdoor game now I might be saying something different. 

"But we’ve gotten the championship kicked off and we know we’re not out again now until July at least so lads can take some time off or holidays if they want. We’ve got a run of league games to get through before then to keep us active.”

Valley Rovers head into the summer with good vibes, nothing but positivity to report from April.

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