Colleges not the cause of burnout - Divilly
John Divilly has launched an impassioned defence of the Independent.ie Sigerson Cup, insisting that higher education's flagship football championship is not a root cause of GAA burnout.
The UCD manager heads to Belfast this weekend, seeking to bring the Sigerson title back to Belfield for the first time in 20 years ... but he cites their light training schedule as proof that the competition is not a burden on elite players.
"People have very divided opinions on Sigerson football, and you either love it or you don't," Divilly told The Herald ahead of UCD's semi-final date with University of Limerick tomorrow (Jordanstown, 1pm).
"There is a place in the GAA calendar for Sigerson. I know there's a massive debate - should it be before Christmas, after Christmas? How do you combine with (under) 21s?
"Look, there is a way to do it; they just have to sit down and solve it.
"No more than the Railway Cup, the players who play Sigerson absolutely love it. It's just that all the other factions on the outside seem to think it can be a bit of a nuisance and cause player burnout, when in fact it doesn't."
The former Galway star pointed out that last night's training session was UCD's first get-together since playing away to UCC last Thursday.
"We train once before you play a championship game," he explained. "Our job is just to gel them together. We don't do any strength and conditioning, or fitness, because they do that (separately). So when they come back into us, our job is to see how fresh they are, do they need a break, are they able to do some drills? And then obviously just get them playing football.
"That's why, if you ask the players themselves, they'll tell you 'We love playing Sigerson football, because we don't have to do the hard work'.
"It has to be done at inter-county level ... but there's no point in us adding to it.
"And it's a short season. We started three weeks ago; it's all over this weekend. They still have six-seven months of football, between club and county."
But what about this weekend's schedule? If UCD overcome UL, they must face the winners of a mouthwatering second semi-final - Jordanstown host holders DCU at 3pm tomorrow - just 24 hours later.
"That's what adds to the competition," Divilly maintained. "That's been there over one hundred years. One time it was three days in-a-row; now it's only two days in-a-row.
"If you're successful in a semi-final, you still have 24 hours to recover. And a lot of guys can play an inter-county game on a Saturday, and play a club game the following day.
"It's all in the lead-up to it. I mean, because we're doing less in the lead-up, they're going to be fresh ... it would be different if we were training three or four nights-a-week, then asking them to play two days in-a-row.
"It's all about keeping them fresh and, in fairness, the majority of counties will not ask their Sigerson players to train this week."
Divilly was a first year fresher when part of the last UCD panel to lift the Sigerson, back in 1996. This is his third year as manager of a group that should be nearing its peak, evidenced by their league final triumph over DCU before Christmas.
They are laden with inter-county pedigree, including four high-profile Dubs in the guise of Mick Fitzsimons, David Byrne (the St Olaf's version), current Footballer of the Year Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion.
Yet Divilly refuses to look beyond UL, even if the potential for an all-Dublin decider with DCU (who include Sky Blue panellists Shane Carthy of Naomh Mearnóg, Ballymun's Davey Byrne and Conor McHugh) is whetting appetites in the capital.
"Three years ago we would have made the decision to try a lot of second years on the team - ie, Jack McCaffrey, Niall Kelly, Ryan Wylie, all these guys," he explained.
"So most of the guys we have now are in their last year in college. They've wised up themselves, without us saying anything at all to them. They just said 'Right, let's be as competitive as we can in every game'."
Two more fences to clear ...