John Meyler: GAA could learn a lot from soccer
Cork manager has unique insight through Irish international son David
On the evidence of last year’s championship Cork look to be moving ahead but John Meyler is not having any of such presumption. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho
Cork hurling manager John Meyler has said that the workload on modern county layers is too heavy. Speaking at the Allianz Hurling League launch in Croke Park on Monday, the Cork manager was asked to compare the demands on his panel with that those on his son David, a soccer international who plays in England with Hull City.
“Too much,” he said. “He does his six or seven weeks of pre-season when he goes back from the start of July to mid-August then the rest is just topping up. That’s really Saturday after Saturday after Saturday and then cup matches thrown in on Tuesday nights. There is no time for training, there is only time for recovery, analysis, relaxation in a way and minding niggles and that. That’s going to play a huge part in these matches going forward.”
“The expectation levels – the training levels for the objective are too much. We maybe over-train. It’s to get the balance but in soccer every club finishes the same week more or less except for a FA Cup final or something like that. You need to finish at the same time for holidays and then the same pre-season of six or seven weeks so every county has the same pre-season.
“Then you’re into the matches and the structure of the matches will determine the pre-season. Like, that’s really going to happen this year because you have a game Sunday-Sunday then a break then Sunday-Sunday-Sunday. It will be exciting for customers.”
Reduction in intensity
His reference is to the new GAA structures this year with a tightened schedule for the AHL and a round-robin format in the provincial championships. Does he believe that the reorientation of the hurling season towards more matches played on a regular basis will result in a proportionate reduction in the intensity of training demands?
“I think it has to. It has to come to a more strategic structure. The calendar is there and you look at our four matches in the Munster championship and two of them are in Cork. It gives players a chance to map out where they are going to be. They might have a free Sunday whereas before it wasn’t as structured.”
This coming Saturday, Meyler’s team take on Kilkenny in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh. On the evidence of last year’s championship Cork look to be moving ahead but he’s not having any of such presumption.
“Kilkenny are Kilkenny and they’re competitive. If you look at them last year, with all the injuries they had – Michael Fennelly, Richie Hogan – they were still only a puck of a ball away from beating Waterford in Thurles. They were extremely competitive last year and they will be this year.”
This year’s calendar also sees April cleared of inter-county fixtures in order to help club schedules, an innovation that will pose a new challenge, according to Meyler.
“We’ve sat down and spoken about it already but we need to do further analysis of what’s needed. We’ve started to analyse that but it will be difficult if they go to the clubs 100 per cent but look whatever happens, happens and we need to be ready for that.”
From Wexford but anchored in Cork for a long time, he has wide inter-county management experience but up until now his involvement with his adopted county had never exceeded selector at senior level. Combine that with an extensive developmental role in the county with under-age squads, as GAA officer in Cork IT and last year’s under-21 manager and it is clear that he ticked a range of boxes when the county suddenly found themselves looking for a replacement for Kieran Kingston.
Meyler though waved away the suggestion that he had aspired to his current status as Cork manager.
“I never had that ambition; I was just in the right place at the right time. While Kieran did a fantastic job last year in building a new, young Cork team, we all thought he was going to stay on for another two years. And rightly so. He introduced the new players that some of us had worked with in the under-21 team. With Kieran stepping down then, they asked me would I do it. I was in the right place at the right time, that’s all.”