WHILE Kilkenny prepare for their Leinster semi-final it looks like the Cats will have to face Dublin without some key players.
Injuries are, sadly, a feature of Gaelic games but somehow they appear to be happening more frequently nowadays. In some instances they are very serious, necessitating long absences from the game.
This increase in the number of injuries is coming against a background of improved training methods and highly qualified medical personnel available to the players. Why then are so many hurlers and footballers suffering such serious injuries?
Without doubt some counties overdo the training and some players are pushed beyond reasonable limits. The astute manager knows how far he needs to push his players in training so as to have them right for the big day.
The pressure to succeed in every county is huge and the fear of failure can see players being over-trained. Many injuries result from incessant training, but it is probably not fair to lay all the blame at the door of the physical trainer.
Player’s lifestyles are very different from recent decades. Diets have changed drastically and it is probably a combination of many factors which have contributed to the increase in injuries.
Whatever the reasons for this increase, the reality is that the cost of treatment and rehabilitation has become a major worry for every County Board (and every club also).
The GAA Player Injury Scheme is a major help, but GAA units are still left with significant costs at the end of the year as a result of the injuries suffered by their players.
My big concern is that while County Boards and clubs accept responsibility for the care and welfare of their players, the range of injuries being suffered nowadays may result in some players experiencing problems in later life. Many ex-players will have the wherewithal to cover their own medical bills, but it could prove problematic for others.
There is no better organisation than the GAA to rally around an injured player with a fund-raising venture, but we now live in very different times and such ventures may not be as fruitful as in the past.
The GAA has a fund for what is termed ‘hardship cases’ and ex-players (be they inter-county or club) may apply for assistance once their case has the necessary support of their County Board and all other avenues to secure funding have been explored.
The GAA is a caring organisation as regards its players, but I worry what might be expected of the Association in the future.
Gaelic games and rugby are but two sports in which players experience injuries which sadly lead to difficulties in later life. Sporting organisations may feel they are absolved of their responsibilities when a player retires, but there will be times when every organisation has to look at individual cases on their merits.
Irrespective of our sporting preferences, we expect our players to put their bodies on the line for the cause of our favourite teams. Thankfully few injuries are ever life-threatening, but some may see a player having to retire prematurely.
Sadly, though, some ex-players fall on difficult times, irrespective of whether they played through an amateur or professional era.
If help is needed a plea should not be ignored, particularly by the organisation to which a player showed loyalty and gave dedicated service during his playing career.