| 9.1°C Dublin

Philly is longing for one more tilt

Close

9 June 2019; Philly McMahon of Dublin during the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Kildare at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

9 June 2019; Philly McMahon of Dublin during the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Kildare at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

9 June 2019; Philly McMahon of Dublin during the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Kildare at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Philly McMahon is the latest high-profile GAA player to express scepticism about the value of playing inter-county matches in empty grounds.

In an interview for McSport, the Dublin defender insisted: "Inter-county football is obviously very little without crowds and fans. That's what makes the inter-county scene."

Behind-closed-doors games is not an option currently being explored at central GAA level, although it is a potential jump-off point for the resumption of organised sport.

And, as McMahon also pointed out, it may be the only viable option other than sitting idle awaiting the discovery of a vaccine for coronavirus.

Asked if he would be willing to return to the football pitch before the end of social distancing, McMahon explained: "If I played a match this weekend and I contracted COVID-19, it's very easily spread into our work life.

"If I'm in a gym and it spread into a class, my gym could close down. There is huge risks towards the rewards.

"But," he went on, "for me, it's 'when do we ever go back if that's the case?'

"As we go on, things will get better. But who knows when there's going to be a cure? We can't just stop playing sport until a cure comes along.

"It's juggling those two things. I'd love to go back playing today. But we're not professional athletes. We're amateurs. We have professions outside that."

That McMahon is itching for a return to competitive action is little surprise. He will be 33 in September and knows he has seen far more days in his inter-county career than he has left.

The upside of the downtime is McMahon has had a sustained period of time in which to hone his fitness.

As he noted: "Players all over the country now are looking at getting physically better.

Style

"And then what it comes down to is how the team plays collectively, technically, the style of the team and how the players play.

"The other side of training is, when you've had 12 or 13 years at going to work at a certain time and finishing of a certain time and thinking all the time about what you're doing to prepare for training, that can be robotic in a way. It's tough.

"Not having to do that is nice. I'm not too worried about being fatigued."

"There are certain things you can work on and certain things you can't. I'm trying to increase fitness levels but not at the extent to where I peak now.

"I'm working on all aspects; strength, power, fitness, speed. I do a lot of agility stuff because I'm a defender and I have to work on that a lot."

Although the government's roadmap for the resumption of normalities allows for sporting facilities to open to groups of four from May 18, followed by non-contact training on June 9, the GAA have decided that their grounds will remain closed until July 20 at the earliest.

"It's hard when you're training on your own because the ball doesn't come back to you that often," said McMahon. I wish the flats were still there!

"Between runs, I practice a bit of shooting. It's difficult to work on the basic skills of what my game is about in terms of tackling.

"The technical side of things can be difficult to work on at the moment."

Having made his debut in 2008, McMahon is acutely aware that any significant further delay in the resumption of sport could have major consequences on the last seasons of a Dublin career in which he has won seven All-Ireland medals.

"For me, at this stage of my career, I'm not one of the young lads any more," he admitted.

"I won't be taking it for granted. Every chance I have to get on that pitch, I'll love it and I'll enjoy it.

"I would have already had that before the lockdown because of the stage of my career I'm at. When it's taken away from you, it's one of those things that you crave so much."