The Paudie Kissane column: Strategic plan must be executed to strengthen Rebel chances in both codes

The Paudie Kissane column: Strategic plan must be executed to strengthen Rebel chances in both codes
Galway's Daithí Burke and Maurice Shanahan of Waterford. The Tribe showed their power and skill this season. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

THE Cork GAA Strategic Plan 2018-2020 was published this week and let's hope it’s another step forward in the progression of Gaelic games in Cork. 

The document covers many areas but considering my background the greatest interest for me was the development squad to senior inter-county pathway.

A Strength and Conditioning Co-coordinator will be appointed in 2019 to oversee the overall athletic development of players in all teams in both football and hurling. This is a definite positive and I know it is something that has been in the pipeline for the last few years.

It's great that it is actually happening and will ensure Cork can maximize the return on the time and investment that is going into strength and conditioning at present.

Medical and physio costs can be reduced and the role can aid greatly to Cork's chances of All Ireland success in the coming years.

The winning of the game will always be dictated by the skills, tactical awareness, and decision-making. Never the less if you don’t have high levels of physical conditioning and the best players healthy and available for selection then you won’t have that chance to win.

In football, this is best typified by the running power of the top teams Dublin and Mayo in recent years while in hurling you have the impressive strength and power of All Ireland champions Galway. This increase in physical development or performance lays a platform to take the sports performance to a higher level.

Tomás Clancy tackles Tom Parsons of Mayo. The Rebels need to match the strength and conditioning of the top teams. Picture: Mandatory Credit INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Tomás Clancy tackles Tom Parsons of Mayo. The Rebels need to match the strength and conditioning of the top teams. Picture: Mandatory Credit INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Some other counties already have this type of person in place. The better-known people include Bryan Cullen, who is a High-Performance Manager with Dublin football, while Peter Donnelly holds a similar position in Tyrone.

The main focus and time is naturally spent with the senior teams but creating that official link between all squads will enable greater gains to be made at senior level as the players will have the correct movement and skills already in place.

Each player irrespective of age will be on a physical development pathway. It’s about deciding what physical qualities a player needs to compete at senior level, what exercises or drills are needed to develop these qualities and then creating a roadmap.

Too much changing in philosophies or approaches can stifle this development. For example, Olympic lifting exercises can be used to develop power in players and are commonly used in the training of elite athletes in many sports.

The incoming senior strength and conditioning coach may decide he wants to include Olympic lifting exercises in a program but if a senior player has never performed these exercises well then progress can be slow.

Ideally if Olympic lifts are going to be included in the Senior Strength and Conditioning programs then from development squad level right up to under U17 level the players will be exposed to these exercises and learn how to perform them correctly.

There have been some links between squads in recent times and I am sure lessons have been learned from this. Having a coordinator in place though can ensure it is streamlined better as one person now will have the responsibility to ensure things stay on track.

Cork is a big county with some players having long distances to travel to training. Ideally, with this coordinator in place, it would be possible to regionalise the strength and conditioning training. This would be more relevant at U17 or minor level as you will have more players working or in college at the adult inter-county grades.

For example, a player from west Cork could travel to Clonakilty while a player from north Cork may travel to Mallow to complete their training. Obviously, you will need a suitable venue and a strength and conditioning team in place, but it can be done. There would still be collective sessions and correctly so but a regional venue would reduce the amount of time spent travelling in cars.

This extra travelling over time can be detrimental to a player’s recovery and performance. It can create extra stress and mobility deficits, which can create greater risk of injury. The parents no doubt would welcome the shorter drive on occasions too.

The plan also highlighted the aim to create better links with both third and second level institutions regards the use of facilities. This could be taken a step further with the greater use of third level colleges research, knowledge, and expertise.

Many institutions would already have exercise physiologists and sports scientists in place with quality research being done in maximizing player performance, injury management, nutrition, and recovery.

This link with universities is common practice in Australian football and with professional soccer clubs in England. Some GAA teams would have sports scientists and with research presently taking place. Creating an official link could provide Cork though with massive benefits going forward.

Richard Murphy and Frank Murphy. at the launch of the Cork GAA Strategic Plan 2018-2020. Picture: Gavin Browne
Richard Murphy and Frank Murphy. at the launch of the Cork GAA Strategic Plan 2018-2020. Picture: Gavin Browne

Together with the upcoming new appointments at county board executive level, the strategic plan launch has created a positive vibe and hope for the future. It must be executed now.

The club team who have a nutritional program in place but only actually talk about it in one meeting at the start of the season don’t achieve a whole lot. Similarly, the team that only spend December and January in the gym will never have the strength and power when they really need it come championship in the summer.

Great commitment and investment is needed to ensure real progress is made.

CONTACT: @paudiekissane www.pkperformance.ie

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