MICHAEL FENNELLY WANTS to change the way GAA teams think about training — and hopefully bring down the injury count.
The five-time All-Ireland champion flies out to Australia next week to begin a two-month ‘work experience’ programme with the Sydney Swans.
There he will be working with the strength and conditioning team to get an insight into how the Aussie Rules outfit operates.
Fennelly has already visited Premier League club West Brom and completed a thesis on GPS tracking as part of a Masters in Sports Performance from the University of Limerick.
Study was a welcome distraction over the summer as Kilkenny crashed out of the Championship in the All-Ireland quarter-finals against Cork.
The Cats midfielder revealed that he wasn’t even able to train as he struggled with a foot problem.
The injury flared up again when he returned to his club Ballyhale Shamrocks before Fennelly finally got the green light to remove a protective boot last week.
He’s due home from Australia in February and admits that he may be cutting it tight for Kilkenny’s league opener against All-Ireland champions Clare on 16 February.
But if the remainder of his rehab goes to plan, he’ll be fit for the spring campaign — and hopefully armed with knowledge that can help reduce injuries.
“I haven’t really looked at have we over-trained,” Fennelly explains, “but at the way we train [compared] to what the game gives us.
Maybe we shouldn’t be doing this long-distance running, maybe we shouldn’t be doing as much of that, maybe it should be sort and snappy.
“A lot of teams do 200- and 300-metre runs and you don’t come near doing that in a game. From what I see, zero to three metres is nearly 90 per cent of the game in acceleration, so there’s a way of looking at that.”
Watching on from the sidelines with Henry Shefflin, centre, and Cillian Buckley, right (INPHO/James Crombie)
The problem for Fennelly, and other strength and conditioning enthusiasts like Joe O’Connor in Clare, is that the data and statistics simply aren’t available for the GAA.
“The money’s not there,” Fennelly says.
“Again, I’m saying the GAA need to come in on this and set up some sort of programme to get data research on teams for a couple of years from January the whole way to September.
“Then they could come out and say ‘look this is what we found, you can take it up whatever way you want’ but at least it would give managers and strength and conditioning coaches the data. They could make their own mind up on it.
“Soccer, rugby, other sports, they have loads of data research out there. Hurling has nothing. Gaelic football has a small bit but not enough of it. There’s an odd bit here and there but you’d need a full year’s research.
“I can’t tell [if we are] over training because I worked on a couple of games, but if you start from January and do every training session the whole way up to September, you can see are lads fatigued at certain parts of the year, did this player get injuries at this part of year, and if so, why? You could pin point ‘maybe he’s done too much here.’
There’s a range of information that could help teams and managers, and maybe reduce injuries, which would reduce costs for county boards, because the number of scans and injuires, knee injuries and ankle injuries that county boards are going through is off the wall.
“I think it would benefit everyone in general.”