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'Some things are bigger than sport'

Wicklow boss Burke on navigating 'unchartered waters' of GAA break

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BAD TIMING: Wicklow manager Davy Burke was looking forward to hosting Antrim at Aughrim this weekend. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

BAD TIMING: Wicklow manager Davy Burke was looking forward to hosting Antrim at Aughrim this weekend. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

BAD TIMING: Wicklow manager Davy Burke was looking forward to hosting Antrim at Aughrim this weekend. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

What now then for inter-county managers, their players and their plans?

The headline finding of the 2018 ESRI report was that those who play Gaelic games at the highest level commit up to 31 hours of their week in pursuit of success.

Some managers have spoken about throwing 40 or more hours per week at it.

Now, they're being told to press pause for an unspecified period of time, at a point in the season when preparations for the serious stuff are usually ramping up.

Some, no doubt, will do some with the nagging suspicion that their next opponents or summer rivals might not be so inclined.

"Everyone's looking for margins", acknowledges Wicklow manager, Davy Burke.

"Everyone's looking for inches. They're thinking: 'How can we do what the opposition aren't doing?"

"I understand all of that. But I do believe that certain things are bigger in life than sport".

It is, Burke reckons, for the safety of their loved ones, more so than themselves that the moratorium on collective training is now strictly observed.

"If you look at inter-county squads, you have 35 healthy, well-conditioned men," he points out. "But they're going home to parents, maybe elderly parents. They could have siblings with respiratory issues.

"Even myself," Burke goes on, "I have people in my life who, if they picked up an illness, they'd struggle to fight it off. So there is bigger picture stuff.

"I'd be very conscious of that. I take sport as seriously as anyone. But there is a line there too".

So what to do?

Self-isolation doesn't make for productive training cycles.

The biggest obstacle in devising a thorough and detailed plan for players as to how best to spend the next two weeks is the lack of certainty that the shut-down will be restricted to just that period of time.

"We're going to break it down into individual plans", Burke explains.

"There are different monitoring and tracking apps now you can use.

"So we'll be sending out individual gym work, individual running sessions and maybe even can they meet with their clubmates?"

"But it really is unchartered waters," he acknowledges.

Unexpected

At least, in a purely sporting context, there are managers for whom this most unexpected of breaks to their season is probably not the worst thing that could have happened.

Burke isn't one of those.

Wicklow sit fourth in Division 4 as we enter this period of uncertainty and inactivity.

Their six points matches the anything the county has tallied in an entire league campaign since 2014.

Their next match, or at least the one they were scheduled to play next Sunday, was against second-placed Antrim in Aughrim.

"We were absolutely humming and ready for Aughrim on Sunday," Burke stresses.

"So we're not happy here about it.

"Don't get me wrong. It's the right decision. I completely back the decision, one hundred per cent. But you would be frustrated by it."

Like most people, Burke isn't entirely convinced Wicklow or any other team will be back in action on March 29.

That could lead to the postponement of the remainder of the league and though promotion would represent a significant achievement in his first season, it won't impact their championship status either way.

It may be that the postponements forced this year's inaugural Tailteann Cup to be put back a season but, for now, all Burke can do is plan as thoroughly with the information provided.

"To be honest, the guidelines are a bit vague," he admits.

"I don't know if I can send lads off in threes or fours, say clubmates or players neighbouring clubs.

"I don't know if we can do that at the minute. But say it is the 29th of March, we'll be keeping the lads accountable, that they've done everything they've been asked, be it individually or in small groups".

Work done

"If you want to be part of Wicklow's last two league games or the first round of the championship, you'll have to have that work done," the Kildare man stresses.

"You'd like to believe there will be an even playing field. I think this is too serious.

"Also, if we went training tonight, it would be 50 people between management, players, catering and everything. It's an operation.

"Generally", Burke adds, "you can't get 50 people together without making a bit of noise or somebody seeing you."