Bryan Sheehan won't be gracing the championship with his presence this year - he has called time on a wonderful career. He was plagued with injury last year - suffering four hamstring injuries - but also cited the spiraling commitments necessary for intercounty football today.
Following his retirement, Sheehan has given a lengthy interview to Damian Lawlor on RTE's GAA Podcast, in which he perfectly summed up how the demands of the modern game have changed in the last few years. The league today, says Sheehan, is played at a pace like the championship was ten years ago. Sheehan believes that the modern intercounty game has essentially gone professional, with one big difference for its players - most GAA players do not have time to rest and recover, as professional athletes must do.
Even in the last three, four, five years, it's gone to a different level. Going back to 2004, up to 2008 or 09, the fitness levels were nowhere near they are now. You had an off-season, and fellas enjoyed their off-season. You came back then and played the league. The league was played to get fit again, and you are geared to the championship. I would say the league today is played at the pace we played the championship back then. It's gone to that extreme level.
The game has totally changed. positions are totally irrelevant - you have cornerbacks kicking scores for fun. Back int he day it was 15 on 15, and you fought your own corner. Your full-back is expected to run the field and kick scores; your corner-forward is expected to track back a hundred metres. The game has gone to that professional level. Everything from the gym work and recovery has gone through the roof. If you asked anyone what they wanted to be, they'd say a professional athlete. and the modern intercounty game is professional.
But the biggest problem is that you don't have the recovery. You have to go and do a day's work. It's getting difficult, you see guys going back to college and staying in college for as long as they can.
Sheehan went on to question how the increased preponderance on strength and conditioning has affected players' time to improve the basic skills of the game, and said that the best way to conquer swamped defences is for players to learn to kick points from 45 metres out.
You can listen to the interview in full on Soundcloud.