THE provincial club finals have begun and it’s a great time to be involved as a club player, mentor or supporter. I have fond memories of my sole provincial journey back in 2013 when my club Clyda Rovers won Munster Intermediate honours.
There can be massive expectation or pressure to win a county title. On achieving that goal you can experience joy but massive relief also. There can be a different type of feeling for new county champions when starting a provincial campaign. A dangerous mix of confidence and hope!
You would have great admiration for consistent winners, for example, Kilcoo in football and Ballygunner in hurling. As a player I am sure I would enjoy those type of set ups. Not necessarily just the winning but rather the journey of striving for the best session by session, week by week.
Team commitment and preparation is vital as we know but this sustained success is not possible without great friendships and spirit within the group and among its loyal supporters.
Also the aforementioned clubs would have suffered championship heartache prior to reaching their present standards. Those struggles are not forgotten about I am sure, and contributed to making them the players they are today. As we all know some of the biggest lessons have been learnt in defeat.
The most successful teams always want more, addicted to that winning feeling. That is how the provincial and All-Ireland Club series need to be approached. This ensures players stay grounded with preparation and intensity at the desired level. Only then will talent potentially make a difference.
In contrast you will find some teams, once they experience a small bit of success, can lose their competitive edge. Praise is important and we all respond well to genuine praise but an overdose of it can make people soft, complacent, lazy and sometimes even deluded! Nothing worse than seeing potential been wasted.
The inter-county game will be in focus again soon but I am sure the majority of players and supporters alike are happy with the benefits that the split season brings to the clubs. Hopefully the weather will stay settled to ensure some great contests.
Inter-county teams are back now in intense training ahead of the2023 season. Next year with league placings potentially effecting championship seeding, it will ensure a change in approach for many teams. In recent years the leagues have been very competitive, but this year results will become even more of a priority so you wonder how this may effect planning and decision making.
Barring an injury crisis, it may be harder for a newcomer to break into the first team next year as the results of every league game could be important. Most teams in recent years would have some consistency in selection but there would still be room for experimentation with the view of developing new players for the championship.
One negative of the split season is the county player who is successful with his club may end up having a very long season.
Ideally this player should have few weeks break to ensure mental and physical recovery. These players can sometimes be carrying a niggling injury that certainly needs some rest and rehab. Depending on the current performance level of his county he may be expected to return to the county setup quickly as results are targeted in the opening rounds.
This player unfortunately may not get the rest he needs and may suffer for it later into 2023. This may not be just about injury but even from a performance level.
Teams have never been fitter and faster, so it’s unrealistic to expect a player to consistently perform at his best year round, without some break. This is particularly relevant to the player who is with a county team with less depth in their panel or the player who is looking to breakthrough to the starting team.
You would have noticed this trend previously with professional soccer or rugby players who had a reduced off or pre-season period as they were competing successfully for their country in the later stages of a World Cup or were way on a summer tour after a gruelling club campaign. The following season for some was followed by either niggling injuries or drop in performance levels.
So much to look forward to as we head towards Christmas but nevertheless it will be interesting to see how inter-county teams balance performance, preparation, and player welfare when dealing with the new competitive demands.