Over the past two years, Liam Cahill has transformed Waterford into one of the top teams in the country. Every chance he gets, he credits an army corporal for helping him do it.
Martin Bennett is a speed coach currently working with Waterford and Coolderry. He has cultivated an impressive reputation thanks to the stream of clients who hail his work.
They include Offaly's Brian Carroll, Tipperary's Patrick “Bonner” Maher, Cork's Damien Cahalane, Shane Kingston and Seán O’Donoghue, Laois's Paul Cahillane, Mark Kavanagh and Ross King, Tyrone's Conor Meyler and Down's Caolan Mooney. The list goes on.
Speaking on the latest episode of the Balls.ie GAA Embedded podcast, Bennett explained that his interest in this area started when it helped his own playing career.
When I was hurling I was probably in the top five for speed. Then I learned sprint mechanics. I was very lucky to encounter a great guy, Dick O'Hanlon, in the army. He was massive into it. He had a huge athletics background and put a lot of time into me. When I went back the next season I was five metres ahead of everyone.
My 90% pace was now better than their 100%. That is what I see hurling. There is not many players hitting PBs on match day. PBs are set in training. That makes sense. If you do a 100 metre sprint you are so fresh. But if you do four of them, your times drastically drop. Hurlers are doing how many metres of high speed running? Hundreds. Probably in the kilometres.
"Between 80-90% match day is high speed. Running off the shoulder, winning the ball. It has to be. You have to be able to look up and observe. 100 metres you don't do that. Head down, burn down the track, Straight lines.
"I want to get way better at 90% than any other team. Make our 90 their 100. Mechanics will do that."
"Conor's going to be an unbelievable coach someday..."
Sprint coach Martin Bennett on the "easy connection" between himself and Tyrone star @CMeyler
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) November 15, 2021
Initially, when his clients explained the benefit of learning mechanics, it took him by surprise.
"It is not even speed as much as it is how easy I can cover forty metres. At first I was like what? But then it all made sense. That is what the game is."
"I always say it is like striking a ball. If you want to strike a ball over the bar from 60 metres and it is falling 10 metres short. You don't get into a gym and start doing cables, pulling trying to increase your pull. You won't do that. You will strike clean. You will work on technique, leverage, timing, repetitions."
So, how much untapped potential is there in the modern intercounty player? "Huge."
"One or two natural guys. Damien Cahalane who I worked with. He comes from an athletics background and it shows. There are a few there you see move right.
"The gap is huge, when they start running, the gap is huge. Dessie Hutchinson, he had a lot of that stuff done and he was lightning. Now there is a few up with him.
"I think there is definitely untapped potential. They don't need to go into the gym. I think it is mechanics. Look at the NFL, most of the of the draft are picked from high school track athletes."