By Kieran Murphy
IT looks as if the jury is still out on whether the GAA is right to dedicate the month of April to club games only.
From a promotional point of view, it means rugby and soccer are given a platform all of their own to broadcast games without any competition from the GAA.
Yet Daniel St Ledger says he enjoyed taking a break from intercounty responsibilities and going back to his club to freshen up after the national league had finished.
“The club month is great from our point of view, but from the management point of view it was tough as players were coming back with knocks and injuries and it was very hard to get everyone together during the month. It was a tricky scenario to deal with but everyone is more focussed now,” the Kildavin-Clonegal player said.
It was hoped Carlow would have played two club championship games in each code in April. But club delegates said no and ruled that league competition should go ahead. Some of the intercounty players still did some extra training on their own and when April passed, they came back into the intercounty set-up.
“Ideally we could do with more time to prepare for Meath but that is the way fixtures are being done and we just have to get on with it,” explained St Ledger.
“Realistically the proper training has only cranked up in the last couple of weeks. Most lads got four league games with their clubs in April which was huge.
“Once we got everyone back in order it was just a matter of focussing again.”
St Ledger said they only started asking real questions of themselves after it became known they were playing Meath.
“It was hard to get a focus until we saw the Meath and Offaly game. We were kind of in between until we saw who we were playing. It was much easier to get your mind focussed on how you are going to play on the day. Up to that point, it was scattered,” he stated.
The Carlow player has seen a change in how teams are preparing now.
“April used to be a dreaded month for intercounty players because there weren’t that many club games going on and you were getting a fair old flogging in the meantime.
“Sports science hadn’t developed the way it has now. At this point, injury prevention is the main thing.
“You are week on week with the club and the management set-up with the physio is quite good in that they don’t flog you and try to keep you as fresh as possible. Probably you are getting more games and that keeps you fairly sharp. That means you don’t have to be running up and down hills or anything like that,” he said.
St Ledger doesn’t have positive experiences of playing against Meath. He made his debut for his county in Croke Park when the Royals hammered Carlow in 2008. They didn’t see a 2-21 to 1-9 quarter-final replay defeat coming in 2012 after the sides had drawn the first day in Tullamore.
In 2014 it was a 7-13 to 0-6 reverse at Netwatch Cullen Park. It is highly unlikely those margins are going to be replicated next Saturday.
The club scene has slowed now. All eyes will be on Portlaoise next Saturday night.
St Ledger saw Meath struggle to beat Offaly in the first round. He remains cautious.
“Offaly showed they were human but that goes on the other foot as well. They might see their weaknesses and rectify them against Carlow,” he says.
Carlow v Meath
O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, Saturday, 5pm