Training Before Dawn? Must Be January

Talking Balls Comments

Football in January - the Glamour Game

There’s been a fair bit of interest over the last week in the ways in which county teams are making their return to training.

With an increasing horde of GAA players committing their thoughts to Twitter, often with scant regard for who might be reading, we can get a real insight into what’s going on out there. Or can we?

These same boys, some of whom were ploughing up and down sand dunes on remote beaches during the training ban were suspiciously quiet during December. Maybe the odd missive about lingerie shopping for the girlfriend or what sort of treat to buy the pet bitch.

But, come the new year we’ve been getting a steady drip drip. In 2003 after Joe Kernan famously shipped Armagh off to the now legendary La Manga Club in Spain, a flurry of copycat overseas warm-weather training camps were organised. There, teams lived like professionals for a week or so before returning to work in the Allied Irish Bank, St Columba’s School, the oul boy’s farm or wherever, and the same old routine.

This year, following on from their success last year, early morning training seems to be the thing. Reports today suggest that Dublin are starting their sessions at 5:30 am. I’ll repeat that, 5:30 am. The thought of it makes me physically sick. That’s round about the time I wake up one the sofa having dozed off after a pleasing glass or two. Likewise Donegal. Early birds get the worm we are told. It used to be if you had a reputation as an early riser you could sleep til’ noon. Not anymore. The pressure this puts on lads to physically get to training is savage. The new philosophy is if you don’t do the time, you’ll be found out. Big time.

Consider last summer. But for two late points in the first half Tyrone had Donegal pretty much where they wanted them. Likewise but for Colm McFadden blazing his goal chance over the bar in Croker, Donegal had the Dubs pretty much where they wanted them. But ultimately it was the Dubs that rose to the top on both days and in the Final.

What gave them those inches? Was it the early morning sessions? Pat Gilroy’s relish for the task in hand? Mickey Whelan’s wily old fox coaching? The input of Caroline Currid? Or the application of boys like Cluxton who trian for the day when it might all come to pass with just one chance. Likely all of the above.

Talking to one Ulster county player earlier, he was telling me they were training like never before, harder, tougher, faster, longer. Knackered he said he was, but loving it because he knows what the prize might be.

And with the training regimes of Dublin and Donegal filtering out to the rest of us, the bar has been raised, there’s no doubt about that.

Come Septmeber, we’ll see who’s for the high stool, the high jump or the heights of All Ireland success. Can’t wait, could be a fascinating year.