WHILE Cork’s U20 hurlers have secured their place in the 2020 All-Ireland final, no date has been set for the game, which was originally due to take place in the second weekend in January.
Even when GAA action does resume, Pat Ryan’s Rebels must wait for the outcome of the Leinster final between Galway and Dublin to find out their opponents. Should it be the Tribesmen who prevail, there would be a Corkman in the opposition dugout for the final.
Skibbereen native Gordon Crowley is part of the Galway backroom team, having been involved in four All-Ireland minor-winning sides as well as a successful U21 team.
While the wait to get on the field can be frustrating, there is at least the consolation that time can be spent doing prepatory work.
“This probably falls into my swim-lane,” Crowley says, “but you’ve a bit more time to do opposition analysis and prepare that side of things, which is more time than we’ve ever had before.
“A lot of it is trying to say, ‘Look, we’ll get the same amount of time that we did the last time,’ and then making sure that the players are ready when that call comes.
“Those plans are already in place, so as soon as the time is defined, then the relative plan can be set, so to speak.”
Otherwise, it’s a case of trying to ensure team spirit remains present through remote meetings, though Crowley acknowledges that they are well-versed in that after last year.
“We went back at 10 days’ notice to play Laois in Portlaoise at the beginning of December,” he says.
“We won that, which was a good dry run because the Kilkenny game was a week later in the same location and at the same time. It just got everybody involved in the protocol of going to games, driving on their own, entering the venue – certainly, the two games I was at, the people there were top-class in terms of checking things.
“We beat Kilkenny and it’s great to get over them at any stage, and then the following Wednesday night, we were back in lockdown again and the Leinster final was off.
“There was work done earlier in the year and it was a lot about skills challenges and different things like that – that only goes so far. Players got their strength and conditioning programmes and stuff to work on but something that has been beneficial has been breaking the panel into smaller groups.
“They all have their personal programmes, they’re working on those in terms of the fitness and the S&C work they can do. Then, there’s a mix of guest speakers, tactical awareness, cooking challenges – trying to keep the group connected, more than anything else.”
However, Crowley doesn’t think that the lack of on-field activity will stymie tactical development and evolution when things do eventually get back to normal.
“In fact, you could almost argue the opposite,” he says.
“There are coaches out there, and I know dozens of them, that are seriously hungry for more knowledge, more insight and are using this time to upskill themselves with courses, webinars, books, opposition analysis, looking at trends in how teams are playing.
“I’ve spent the last week going through the Limerick game again [All-Ireland senior semi-final], some of the movements and set-ups that they have on their puck-out.
"You’d be looking at that and asking what can be learned. The behind-the-goal footage from those games, seeing what the goalkeeper sees, there’s some fascinating stuff you can take from it.”
The Shannonsiders are the team for everybody else to try to match, but Crowley knows that that is easier said than done.
“I know everybody talks about their strength and conditioning and how athletic Gearoíd Hegarty and Kyle Hayes and Tom Morrissey are,” he says, “but they have serious skill level, serious touch, serious skill under pressure, operating in tight spaces in the middle third.
“Their decision-making and how quickly they move the ball is really impressive and that’s not just built in the gym, it’s what they’re doing on the field in training. That sets the bar for everyone else, in all categories.”