Shane Elliott

Shane Elliott: Now is the time to weigh up what’s really important

In normal circumstances the general busyness of life makes it very difficult to take the time to think and reflect on how we are living our lives.

Many of us get up, go to work, come home, go out to training, back home, go to bed and repeat. But these are not normal circumstances and now that we all have a bit of time on our hands it presents a great opportunity to do just that, think and reflect.

I follow a gentleman called Allistair McCaw on twitter, he is a sports psychologist and motivational speaker and last week he tweeted “In the rush to return back to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to”.


The current situation presents us with a rare opportunity to weigh up what is really important and what we should prioritise when normality returns. An old boss of mine used to say you should never waste a good crisis.

What she meant was that a crisis would always present an opportunity to consider doing things differently. The ability to think however does need to be balanced as there is also the danger of over thinking which can lead to confusion. It is fair to say that life is not likely to be the same again for quite some time so we really should take the time to refocus and consider changes to how we have always done things.

When some degree of normality does return in my opinion there are a number of areas worthy of serious consideration for radical change in the world of hurling and sport in general.

Firstly fixtures. This has been referred to many times in the column but to my mind now is the perfect time for the GAA to radically overhaul fixtures management for this year and beyond. I think there will now be a newfound appetite to re-evaluate and properly manage fixtures with a condensed season. Everyone will have a deeper appreciation of the important things in life and the need to not allow our sport to be all consuming.

Without a doubt there needs to be a closed season over the winter months. As a starting point I would totally block out the months of December and January and go from there to get a workable club and county fixtures schedule. If that means less competitions, then so be it as there needs to be an acknowledgement from all concerned that we can’t keep doing what we have always done.

Secondly finances. Now is the time to introduce a financial cap on team preparations at inter-county level. We all know that coming out the other side of this money will be in short supply. Society in general will have taken a massive economic hit, businesses will struggle for a while, many will not survive at all and ordinary members and paying supporters will not have much spare cash. That will of course impact on club and county income, sponsorships will be less generous, and it will not be possible to continue to invest the sort of sums we have seen in recent times. That presents the perfect opportunity to control expenditure to a more acceptable and affordable level. I don’t have strong views on what the threshold should be but when it is set counties should be held to account to ensure it is enforced.

Thirdly training load. The third point is inextricably linked to the second one. The training load on players has been a hot topic for some time now. Training amateurs like professionals is hard to sustain as we continue to see with the ever-reducing age profile of inter county squads.

A significant majority of our top players are students who do tend to have more time to do the required training. Full time workers and men with young families are increasingly rare at the top level.

The training loads are putting these types of individual off as very often there is little flexibility in terms of management expectations. We have all been guilty of the “all in or not at all” approach. As one old coach I knew put it, “ if you are only half in you are out”.

Whilst I do get that approach it often fails to take account of individual circumstances and allow any sort of flexibility for players who may have other things going on in their lives like work and family.

Perhaps a reduced training load will entice these very players to continue playing whilst at the same time helping to reduce the overall expenditure on team preparation. Greater scientific minds than mine would be of the view that two collective training sessions per week and a game at the weekend is sufficient to allow a better balance to be struck with training and proper rest for amateur sportsmen.

I am sure my thoughts will not be palatable to many and perhaps do not go far enough for others, but I like to think we can all acknowledge that some things do need to change. From a rules perspective and as a spectacle the game itself is in fine shape and should be left alone but fixtures and finance cannot continue to be ignored.

If this is not the time to think about such radical change I don’t know when is.

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