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The process may have changed but Cats still putting in the work - DJ

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Kilkenny hurling selector DJ Carey pictured at the EirGrid Official Timing Sponsorship launch

Kilkenny hurling selector DJ Carey pictured at the EirGrid Official Timing Sponsorship launch

SPORTSFILE

Kilkenny hurling selector DJ Carey pictured at the EirGrid Official Timing Sponsorship launch

From temporary marquees to eating in cars and from facial recognition software to socially distanced team talks, there's very little that's 'normal' about an inter-county training session in the 'new normal'.

With the club scene in lockdown for the foreseeable future, the inter-county game is set to take centre stage once again.

And the GAA are determined that the championships will go ahead, having secured loans and Government funding to ensure counties could prepare their teams.

And on a local level, inter-county management teams are going to great lengths to keep their panels safe.

In talking through the protocols Kilkenny have put in place at their training base in Dunmore, Cats legend and current senior selector DJ Carey outlined just how different the experience is for their hurlers and how much financial strain the new requirements place on the county board.

"I'd say it's completely different (for the hurlers). In dressing-rooms, the bit of craic is not there. Because there is very little close contact.

Different

"But look, it is as it is. There might be other counties doing things slightly different to us. Tadhg Crowley (Kilkenny team doctor), this is what he has asked us to do.

"From the Kilkenny County Board point of view, it's a huge cost."

Like a lot of counties around the country, Kilkenny have had to put extra facilities in place to help the squad prepare for the championship which starts with a Leinster semi-final against either Dublin or Laois on the weekend of November 31.

They have erected two large marquees at their training base to help facilitate social distancing. To minimise the risk of cross-contamination, the same players use the same marquees each time.

Kilkenny have also invested in a state-of-the-art temperature check machine, which includes facial recognition software, to ensure the well-being of anyone who enters the session.

There are one-way systems in place. Players travel on their own and arrive in one set of gear and change into another when the session is over.

Meals are delivered to the sessions but are to be eaten either back at home or in the car. The training session itself is the same, but everything around it has changed fundamentally.

"We train in the MW Hire Centre in Kilkenny which is our training ground," Carey explained at the EirGrid Official Timing Sponsorship launch.

"We don't go to Nowlan Park because you can't use the dressing-rooms.

"We have two big marquees up on either side of the stand which means half the players go into one, half go into the other. There is a one-way system in and out.

Temperature

"Unless they are coming from the same household, players come in one car. You go have your temperature checked. You're coming togged, ready to go.

"All the hurls and balls are sanitised before we start going and doing any sort of hurling. The training session itself is fine but we don't huddle, we don't come in to talk.

"You talk from a certain distance to players. Once training is over, players take off their gear, it's put into a big bin. That's collected by a dry cleaners, taken away. That will be back the following night.

"Players tog out into fresh gear, go home and have a shower. Their meal is delivered to them at training - they take that home, or eat it there and then either in their cars.

"If you need physio, that has to be booked in. It's only the physio and a player can be in a room. As before, there could be five guys in a room waiting to jump up on the bed - none of that can happen.

"From a management point of view, we're there with masks on. Two, three, four metres apart, all the time. You're trying to abide by it all the time."

Carey revealed that, to date, two Kilkenny players reported symptoms to team doctor Crowley. Thankfully, both players were quickly cleared to return to training.

"When we come to training everybody is told if you have a sniffle, if there is a runny nose, if there is any sort of a sore throat, or a cough you do not come to training, you contact Dr Crowley.

"We've had two of them so far of which the following night they were back, they were fine, there was nothing in it."

And while Carey admits that there's a lot they can't control, he insists they will be leaving as little as possible to chance.

"It's absolutely best behaviour, you are doing everything right, the temperatures are checked every night before we train. Accidentally something could go wrong, who knows. But we're doing our best, yeah."