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GAA intercounty preseason over four weeks would be too short, says former Dublin hurler Joey Boland

Brian Barry

Physiotherapist and former Dublin hurler Joey Boland explains why he feels four weeks is not an adequate preseason for GAA players ahead of the return of intercounty action in 2021

The GAA has indicated that once it gets the green light from the Irish government to return to play, it will give a four-week preseason to intercounty teams ahead of any matches.

“One of the things maybe we didn’t quite get right last year was maybe we rushed back a little bit,” GAA director general Tom Ryan explained last month.

“Unbelievably even though the playing season was shorter and more truncated, we actually had more player injuries last year than the previous year. More injury claims and so on. There’s an argument for when we get the green light [this year] we’ll still be careful and we’ll still be cautious about it, because what that will mean is a huge burden of responsibility on us to make sure we do the thing right.”

However, physiotherapist and former Dublin hurler Joey Boland fears that even a one-month preseason may not go far enough to adequately reduce the risk of injuries.

“Honestly, I think four weeks would be too short,” says Boland.

“Rumour has it, and I don’t know what’s going to happen, but if you start training on April 5 as a group, and you’re out in your first league game on let’s say May 5, it’s not a lot of time to get the body ready.

“You can do all the runs you want up and down the pitch but you just can’t replicate that high intensity. You know when you’re chasing a player in a training match. You definitely need an eight-week run-in in an ideal scenario when you can train and get your challenge matches in and stuff. I don’t think you can do shorter than four weeks and you definitely need longer.

“But we’re in the situation we’re in. We’re probably trying to get league in first and then make a call if it’s going to go straight into championship or go back to the clubs. I think that’s still up in the air.”

So what are the main areas of concern?

“Hamstrings would definitely be number one because that’s all to do with exposure to that tough sprinting when if you’re a corner back and the corner forward has made four or five runs and then maybe a fresh man comes onto you and you have to go again and again and again,” Boland noted.

“You can only replicate that in real match situations. So, hamstring and then the second one would be ankles. If you’re used to just jogging in straight lines and you’re just training by yourself, and then suddenly there’s so much more to be thinking about when you’re in an actual match.

“You need your ankles to have had that exposure to that unconscious balance of landing, twisting and turning.”

Boland saw the increased number of injuries firsthand through his line of work.

“Especially the intercounty season last year, there were a lot of players taking painkillers and playing through because it was such a short period,” he said.

“You really couldn’t afford to be sitting out with a sore hip or a sore groin or anything like that, especially in the mini preseasons.

“With the club as well, there was just no time to periodise your training at all or look after yourself so there was a big increase in injuries. But they mightn’t have been reported.”

At present, the GAA is hoping to be allowed to return from April 5. If the intercounty season were to resume first ahead of club championships as expected, that would see the National League starting in early May.

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