I have recently completed my PhD investigating ‘Performance Attenuation and Recovery in Gaelic Games’ under the supervision and guidance of Dr. David Kelly and Dr. Ciarán Ó Catháin at the Technological University of the Shannon.
My PhD project aimed to (1) examine the performance attenuation incurred by Gaelic Games players, (2) assess the influence of physical conditioning on these responses and (3) establish the subsequent timeline and strategies of recovery used following training or match-play.
The field-based invasive Gaelic sports require significant physiological, mental and tactical-technical proficiency to execute numerous sport-specific tasks in a fast-paced and highly unpredictable environment. Players must be able to perform under conditions of accumulating fatigue, competitive pressure and under the threat of regular physical contact (i.e., fending off defenders or tackling). While competitive performance requires significant aerobic capacity to cover large distances (6 – 11 km), a broad range of components of fitness are essential to undertake frequent high-intensity efforts of sprinting, changes of direction, rapid accelerations/decelerations, tackling and contesting for possession. Additionally, Gaelic players are exposed to demanding training and competitive schedules over a lengthy season, and these amateur code athletes are typically expected to pursue near professional levels of commitment (at inter-county levels). Success in Gaelic games necessitates consistent high-level performances, with coaches and players seeking any advantage in preparation for competition.
While components of fitness are anecdotally thought to influence Gaelic players’ work capacity during competitive match-play, and their recovery between training sessions and matches, empirical data exploring these interactions are limited. The findings from our research reflect the multifactorial physical and metabolic demands players face during competition, highlighting that players with well-developed running speed, aerobic fitness and muscular power outwork their less-conditioned counterparts during match-play. In addition, our findings suggest that players with superior physiological attributes (particularly aerobic fitness and muscular strength) also accumulate less fatigue and muscle damage during and following match-play. Collectively, the key message from my project is that players with well-developed components of fitness present with lower fatigue and improved post-exercise recovery, even despite undertaking larger workloads during match-play. Therefore, coaches may aim to enhance players physical conditioning in order to (1) increase on-field work capacity, (2) reduce in-game fatigue and performance decline, and (3) improve their ability to recover following training/matches.
Lorcan Daly is a Teaching Assistant in the Department of Physical Education and Sports Sciences at the University of Limerick.
Contact: Email: lorcan.Daly@ul.ie; ResearchGate @LorcanDaly10