THE latest delay to the season has thrown a spanner in the works for everyone, but Fermanagh’s strength and conditioning coach Leon Carters says they’re making the most of a bad situation.
While he misses face-to-face contact with the players, he keeps in regular touch and has readjusted their load as a result of last week’s news that there will be no return to collective training before Easter at the earliest.
Carters, who’s been part of the senior set-up since 2015, said: “We were looking towards the end of March or start of April, so it’s a case of dropping things back a few weeks and giving the boys a bit more time to chill out.
“They’ve all got their individual programmes which are monitored remotely so it’s as good as it can be. We’d like things to be different but our hands are tied and there are much more serious things going on at the moment.
“From a coaching perspective and even as a player, you thrive on interaction and you want that face-to-face interaction.
“It’s great that we have Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GPS and TeamBuildr. Without all that tech, the situation would be far harder. It’s about making the most of what you have and so far I think we’ve done that.”
Carters is preparing for his seventh season with the Erne county with the team reaching the All-Ireland quarter-final in his first year. He’s witnessed a massive turn-over in personnel in that time, so it’s important they manage the many talented young players who’ve entered the set-up in the last year or so.
“With us being a small county, there’s been an incredible turnover. If you look at the matchday squad of the Ulster final in 2018, there’s only eight players remaining in the Fermanagh set-up for different reasons.
“I was speaking to Ryan (McMenamin) and Paul (McIver), we have an extended panel of about 42 players and over 20 of them are currently u-20s or have been in the last two years.
“We’ve Eoghan Bradley in there as head of Athletic Performance a the Academy along with Sean Doherty. It’s a case of nurturing those players, obviously you want to get results but you have to be patient. There’s a lot of raw talent and pace there but some of those lads like Michael Glynn, Josh Largo Ellis, Sean McNally, the list goes on, are a few years away from physical maturity.
“It’s just about educating them and making sure they do the right thing, the more you do that, the more chance they have of reaching their potential.”
The Fermanagh backroom team saw the exit of Joe McMahon late last season as he’s taken up a new role as part of the Tyrone senior intercounty management. As things stand, he hasn’t been replaced, and it remains to be seen whether they’ll make do with what they have.
Carters, who played his club football with Coa, said: “Big Joe has decided to go back to his own county, and it would be very difficult to turn that down. I know ‘Ricey’ hasn’t decided to bring anyone in as of yet – he’s happy with Paul and myself, and other lads who are involved with Ronan Gallagher.
“Backroom squads can be massively extended and sometimes you ask yourself what are they all going to do. It is hands-on for me even at the minute, I’m in daily contact with the players. As a strength and conditioning coach it’s important to build relationships and trust.
“It was a difficult season last year but hopefully if things go forward this year we can push on and develop this team further.”
While Fermanagh have had some good seasons in the last decade, Carters says he’s ultimately fairly realistic about what they can achieve. At the same time, springing back from Division Three at the first time of asking must be a big target.“Strength and conditioning coaches are just a small piece of the jigsaw. Our job is to try to get the players to their optimum performance levels, and to make them strong and robust.
“We have to build relationships with the players and as we’re a small county I’d get to know them pretty well. You’re going to have bad days especially in a small county, but it’s satisfying watching them develop and be the best they can be. Winning is the ideal but at the same time it’s good to watch them improve.”