What is the best preparation for a county final - fresh or near fatigued?

Newcestown’s busyness has led to final opponents Dohenys standing outside in the championship cold for over a month.
What is the best preparation for a county final - fresh or near fatigued?

BEST PREPARATION: Luke Meade, Newcestown, joined Fionn Herlihy, Dohenys at Páirc Uí Chaoimh ahead of the Bon Secours Cork Senior A Football Championship Final.

Is it better to be undercooked or overdone?

Is it better to come in off a long lay-off or a most demanding week-on-week games cycle?

Is it better to come in fresh or near fatigued?

Is it better to come in championship-starved or approaching championship saturation point?

Such questions, in a GAA context, have been posed and unparceled since day dot. Such questions will get a good airing during Saturday evening’s Cork Senior A football final.

The Senior A football decider is the last of Cork’s 10 county finals from Premier Senior down to Premier Junior to be decided. That it is the last of the 10 to be played is down to Newcestown and the never-ending season of their many dual exponents.

With one county already in the bag, they come chasing a Senior A double.

Today’s decider is their 13th game in the 15 weeks since the championship threw-in on July 29. Today is their seventh knockout fixture in eight weeks. Today is their third county final in 20 days.

Newcestown, in short, have been busy. Very, very busy.

But Newcestown’s busyness has led to final opponents Dohenys standing outside in the championship cold for over a month.

Today’s decider is their first game in five weeks. Factor in their bypassing of the quarter-final and today’s decider is only their second game in nine weeks.

Today’s decider was supposed to be played last weekend, but when Newcestown and Blarney could not be separated in the Senior A hurling final on October 22 and a replay was required the following Saturday, the football decider was put back a week to give Newcestown a fortnight between the latter pair of games.

Dohenys have long aired their grievances with how that week’s postponement was handled and communicated to them.

Given the intention was for all Cork county finals to be played by the October Bank Holiday weekend, Dohenys described it as “a kick in the teeth” to see their final be pushed back a fortnight from when they expected it to be staged.

Grievances in Dunmanway have given way to final preparations and making sure their freshness stands to them rather than their undercooked nature standing against them.

“It was always going to be a tricky situation,” said manager Declan O’Dwyer of the gap to their semi-final win over Knocknagree on October 7.

“We came out of the group stages in a happy situation in relation to going straight through to the last four. Managing that was new to us but I felt we managed that pretty well.

“With regard to the final then, we were assuming initially it might actually be three weeks, then it turned out to be four, and it wound up being five. You just had to adjust.

“There were a lot of logistical things that had to be changed with regard to players who were genuinely heading away (full-back Seán Daly was meant to fly to Australia today). There was never any doubt that these lads wouldn't go.

“Then it is just getting down to deciding what is best for the lads. We took a few days off after the Knocknagree game. We scoured around for a game or two, we got them, and were very happy with the quality of game we got.

“You just pick it up in training as best you can. It is never easy to know until you get back out on the pitch for championship.” 

In essence, loitering unwelcome in the background during their five-week final preparations has been that fear of championship inaction costing them on the day it matters most.

“That is always going to be there. You hope you have the work done. You can never match that championship intensity in training, but you hope what you are doing is getting somewhere near it.” 

What has most reassured O’Dwyer during their five-week lay-off has been the attitude of his players to their lengthy gameless spell.

“That's actually been the most pleasing thing about all this. Once the final was pushed back that extra week, we had to address it with the lads.

“When we called them into training on the Tuesday and discussed it, they were exceptional. I said to the rest of the management lads with me, you could easily have seen them having a gripe with this whole thing and going 'another week', but there was no question, no complaint. They just got on with it and training, and we probably trained better that night than we had in a long time.” 

Training is one thing, championship minutes is another. Will their imbalance of the two prove more a help or hindrance when set against Newcestown’s opposite end imbalance of the two?

Saturday evening will reveal all.

A collection of the latest sports news, reports and analysis from Cork.

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