Galway All-Ireland winner Aidan Harte has given the new format of the hurling season for 2018 the thumbs up, insisting he thinks the new condensed schedule is going to be welcomed with open arms by players.
Under the new system, the season will start in earnest in January and teams could play eight games in just nine weeks if they go all the way to the league final.
April will be left vacant from club activity but that will be followed by an extended Leinster Championship and All-Ireland series which will also be run off in a tighter window than before.
But Harte insists he’s looking forward to it.
“I thought we had an awful lot of games (in 2017) with the league and everything but isn’t that the beauty of it?” Harte said at the launch of the GAA’s Future Leaders Transition Year Programme in Croke Park.
“We were here in a Leinster final and it was five or six weeks to the All-Ireland semi-final. You’re going to have games week in, week out now so your panel is going to be stretched, guys might get suspended, guys might go off form, guys might get injured.
“You’re really going to need that one to 34 or 35. I think it’s going to be great – I’m really looking forward to it.”
And he reckons players around the country will be happier to have an improved training-to-games ratio. “When you go back in January you take it game by game,” said the Gort man. “You’re a player so you want to be playing, you want to be out on the pitch. It’s easier to be out playing matches than running around bollards in Claregalway!”
Harte and Galway will head to Cancun and New York on their team holiday at the end of the month but he reckons that none of the team will have completely taken their eye off their conditioning even as they celebrated a first All-Ireland in 29 years.
“The way it has gone over the years, even though it is amateur, it still has that professional element,” he said. “Nobody at this time of the year goes two or three days without doing a gym session or getting to the ball work. It is continuous, it is just the way it is. I know myself in two or three years’ time, or even sooner if (manager) Micheál (Donoghue) decides, it could all be over.
“So you try to make the most of it when you can and when we go back training in January, you will try to get to the peak of your fitness and get as sharp as possible. And you need a slice of luck as well. We were probably lucky this year that bar Paul Killeen’s bad knee injury, we didn’t pick up a lot of injuries and things like Joe’s point here against Tipperary, can you train for things like that? It was a slice of luck, and we will need that again.”