Joey Boland unconvinced four-week preparation enough for intercounty squads

Former Dublin hurler, a physiotherapist, thinks rushed return to action will lead to a rise in injuries

Joey Boland: “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.” Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Joey Boland: “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.” Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

 

Former Dublin hurler and physiotherapist Joey Boland has become the latest voice to express misgivings about the adequacy of four weeks’ preparation for any return to intercounty play.

“Honestly, I think four weeks would be too short. Rumour has it – and I don’t know what’s going to happen – but if you start training on April 5th as a group and you’re out in your first league game on let’s say May 5th, 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 the 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.”

He was speaking at launch of Dublin sponsors AIG’s new health and wellness portal.

These concerns come after last month’s acknowledgement by GAA DG Tom Ryan that perhaps the 2020 return to play had been somewhat rushed.

“One of the things maybe we didn’t quite get right last year,” Ryan said at the launch of his annual report two weeks ago, “was maybe we rushed back a little bit, in terms of the training effort that went in both club-wise and county-wise to get people back on the field.”

Although last year’s season was ostensibly shorter, county players had been on standby for much of the original lockdown and then proceeded from club activity in the summer to intercounty training immediately afterwards.

Boland says that the highest-risk injuries are hamstrings and ankles.

“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.

“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.”

Although Croke Park haven’t definitively crunched the numbers on the number of injuries last year and Ryan’s concern was based on the amount of claims on the injury fund, which was disproportionately high for an abbreviated season, Boland’s anecdotal evidence suggests there was a higher incidence.

Big increase

“Yeah, especially the intercounty season last year. There were a lot of players taking painkillers and playing through because it was such a short period. 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 pre-seasons.

“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.”

As a member of Anthony Daly’s teams, which set a modern benchmark for Dublin hurling with national league and Leinster success in 2011 and 2013, Boland, who retired in 2018, reflects on the disappointing follow-through.

“I think Pat Gilroy had us very close [in 2018]. If he hadn’t to step away, the second year under Pat, like he did with the footballers in 2010-11, I think you would have seen a big step forward then.

“So that was a bit of a disappointment that he couldn’t stay around and keep on the progress that he had made. And then Mattie took over then and they’re improving but I think the standard around the country has improved as well.”

He rates Dublin currently as between “six and eight” in the current pecking order.

On the modern game, he welcomes the new disciplinary trial to address cynical fouling in hurling.

“What we would have always been told for years: if a ball hops around the 45 and a good runner gets the ball on the run – it’s all about overlaps and runs. In order to better the game, you have to discourage defenders from hauling players down. So I think it’s a good thing.”

Does he believe that the new punishment of a sin-bin and penalty against players, who deliberately deprive an opponent of a goalscoring chance within the 20-metre line and its arc is appropriate?

“I think it is, yeah. Only time will tell but whatever they picked, there would always be an argument for another option. I’d be happy enough and am looking forward to seeing how it goes.”

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