Sports

Off The Record by Oisin McConville

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

THE Armagh county side were away to Portugal last week for a boot-camp and, as someone who's been away on a few of these types of trips, I can vouch for the benefits that players get from these intensive periods of sustained group work away and free from distraction.

When I was playing, we went to La Manga, Portugal, we were in Bath at one stage (not a bath, but Bath, in England!). I do know that these trips are very necessary, you can almost fit three weeks training into a week with the time that you have it's so intensive, so I can understand why the county want to do that and rightly so.

You try and cram as much as you can in before the championship because Armagh have a winnable game against Fermanagh. It's a game you would expect Armagh to win but, as I always say, a team has to go out and actually do the job because it doesn't matter what the papers say or what the form is.

As a consequence of the county break, club teams had the option of postponing their fixtures this week and the majority did apart from the those without county players such as Killeavy and Silverbridge game, with Killeavy edging a dour affair.

A lot of teams would've been missing one or two players, so you have ask what kind of message it sends out to the rest of the club players when the games can't go ahead? I remember with Cross' us having seven or eight players missing on county duty and games still going ahead, so I think if we're talking about club players needing to get game time then the games should've went ahead.

Coming down the line it's going to lead to bigger problems and the possibility of fixture congestion, where you might have clubs having to play games on a Friday and then again on a Sunday.

As far as the boot camp in Portugal goes, players are probably doing three sessions a day - a field session, gym session and maybe a video session - and you're getting so much work into the space of a week that normally you wouldn't get, so the benefits of it are untold.

The first time we went on it, we won the All-Ireland with Armagh, when we went to La Manga. It was a completely different world for us because it was like being a full-time, professional athlete.

We arrived in La Manga the day after Real Madrid left the exact same accommodation, with also the exact same dietary requirements, the same options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it just means that you're eating well, sleeping well and are fully concentrated on Armagh and what's going on. You've a chance to do those video sessions, which are a killer for players during the week, especially if they're commuting to Belfast and Dublin in the evening.

When you're in that situation in Portugal you digest a lot more and you're fit to digest a lot more, it's a real collective acceleration of development. It ensures that people are all singing off the same hymn-sheet and they'll be getting as close to peak possible condition as possible in a condensed period.

You're conditioning yourself to be fit for 60 minutes in searing heat, so the benefits of it are untold. Of course there'll be naysayers and detractors, some people have a real bee in their bonnet about April being free for clubs, but realistically, anyone who's playing for the county in the early parts of May, that doesn't work for them in terms of preparation.

If you're trying to prepare a team for the ultimate of what they're trying to prepare for - which is the championship - to expect them just to have two weeks preparation come May time is unrealistic.

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