'When the GPS trackers came into the training tops, I began to suffer,' admits Masters
James Masters sensed that his inter-county days were probably numbered when they introduced GPS trackers into Cork training tops.
The veteran sharpshooter, now 33, is back in the news as Nemo Rangers gear up for another AIB Munster club SFC final in Mallow this Sunday, fancied to land a record 16th provincial title against Clonmel Commercials.
Masters was only 27 when he walked away from the Cork panel, frustrated at his lack of game-time. He still harbours some regret over how it all finished - they would end the year as All-Ireland champions - but even then he could sense how the game was changing.
The Nemo forward has always been a natural predator; a hard-running machine he wasn't. "I didn't have the greatest work ethic and I suppose the time when the GPS came into the training tops, I began to suffer!" he admits.
"I'll be honest, I actually remember one training session and they actually said to me, 'You only run fast when you're getting the ball.' The likes of Daniel (Goulding) and Colm (O'Neill) were making the continual three or four runs at 90 per cent - and I was making two runs at 40 per cent.
"But, look, everyone is different. My best attributes are that when I get the ball into my hand at close range I can shoot straight off the bat, no bouncing. It does work at times and I think - if you go through my record in the Munster club - it's been phenomenally good.
"I seem to love Munster championships. Maybe it's the time of the year and everyone is slowing down a bit. But definitely it's a time of the year I enjoy. I think I got two Munster club player of the year (awards) and I just hope I can play on Sunday and play some part."
Harking back to 2010, Masters stresses that he harboured "no ill feelings" towards Conor Counihan.
But it had got to the stage where he "wasn't getting game-time" after putting in a hard winter's training; what followed was "a hard enough time" as Cork went on to lift Sam but he was never tempted to take up Counihan's offer to ring him if he wanted to come back.
"For me, it's all about playing. I know that sounds bad because now - when I'm playing with Nemo, and I've been injured the last couple of months - it's all about the team and winning. But with the county I just felt like I wanted to play all of the time."
Over five years on, Masters can now see the same fanatical fitness levels creeping into the club game.
"You could be on the worst corner-back in the world but you're trying to push away from him and you're feeling a six-pack while he's grabbing a bit around your waist!" he laughs.
"I remember marking your man from Monaghan, Dessie Mone, and I remember the first ball and he was grabbing at me and saying, 'You have a bit of fat there, do ya?!'
"The Nemo lads are phenomenal athletes now as well as footballers. That's probably the good thing about Nemo. Because you have certain teams in Cork who come up with the tight tops and the muscles - but they can't kick the ball."