GAA Football

Leading players facing complete burnout, warns Glen manager Malachy O'Rourke

Glen manager Malachy O'Rourke with last minute instructions for his players. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.
Andy Watters

THE demands the split GAA season is putting on the top players have been highlighted by Glen manager Malachy O’Rourke.

Having spent seven years as manager of Monaghan before he propelled the Maghera club to back-to-back Derry titles and now Sunday’s Ulster Club Championship final against reigning champions Kilcoo, O’Rourke is well placed to know the rigours of the game at club and county level.

Key personnel for his Glen side on Sunday will include Conor Glass, Emmet Bradley, Ethan Doherty and Connlan Bradley who were all involved in their county’s march to an Ulster title and the All-Ireland semi-final stage last season.

Since then they have been immersed in helping their club break new ground in this campaign. O’Rourke empathises with their schedule and is concerned that the current format isn’t sustainable.

“The one big drawback I see with it (the split season) is for county players who are with clubs who are going on late in the year,” he said.

“Some of our boys have been on the go for two years. They have been really going now for two years because they came back to the club and we gave them a couple of weeks off and now they’re still playing in December.

“I don’t know how many weeks they will get and then it’s straight back in and going right through, so those lads are on the go solid for two years and I don’t know how long you can keep that going.”

Should Glen win the Ulster title on Sunday, their county players will be involved in the All-Ireland Club Championship series early next year. After that their county manager will hope to have them available for the National League…

The same is true for Kilcoo who include Down manager Conor Laverty in their ranks. Laverty may hope to utilise the talents of Niall Kane, Micheal Rooney, Ryan McEvoy, the Johnston brothers among others in his county squad so there is little respite for the best players.

“Whenever Glen finish they (the county players) should be getting an off-season and then a pre-season to get them right for next year,” added O’Rourke.

“In all honesty, and that’s not blaming anybody, but that’s the way it is at the minute

“The National League starts at the end of January are going to go back in and they’re on the treadmill again. I don’t know how long that can go on.

“For Conor (Glass) who’s obviously coming from a professional sport in Aussie Rules, that’s okay when you have the recovery time and all the resources, but he’s now got his own business…

“He’s not professional anymore and that’s the demands that are being placed on them. So it’s tough on those players. It’s the same for the Slaughtneil boys who have been hurling right until the Ulster club final.

“So that’s the bit I feel is tough for the boys who are going all the time. I don’t know what the answer is in the long term but if you’re involved in both and successful in both it’s tough now.”

Turning his attention to Sunday’s Ulster final, O’Rourke said his players need to improve on their performance against Kilcoo in last year’s Ulster Championship semi-final. Glen pushed the Magpies to extra-time but lost out by three points in the end.

“We just have to be better on the ball,” he said.

“Last year I suppose our shot conversion wasn’t good enough and we gave away some ball and then when they had the ball we were too porous at times so without going into specifics there are lots of things we need to be better at.”

GAA Football