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10th Jan 2024

“That social aspect is a good part of it” – Nugent’s recovery rooms needed this week more than ever

Niall McIntyre

Aidan Nugent is one of his own best customers at the minute.

Having opened R8 recovery rooms back in 2020, at the heart of the Covid lock-down, Nugent’s business has expanded to what it is now, with a gym and a cafe to boot.

And with just seven days to prepare for Sunday’s AIB All-Ireland intermediate football final against Cill na Martra, himself and his St Pat’s Cullyhanna team-mates have been availing of the facilities this week more than ever.

Formerly a teacher, Nugent now works full-time on his R8 gyms/recovery rooms and Blue Barista coffee business in Armagh, determined to give it a ‘good rattle’ over the next while.

“The cafe is only open six months, and it’s getting out there, but I can’t complain and I’m enjoying it. It’s long hours but you can set them yourself and that suits for football,” he says.

“You want footfall, and if you’re serving coffee and toasties and soup, it gives people more of a reason to come and then there’s the knock-on-effect of people knowing that the gym is next door too.

“We’re on the main street here, and that increases the awareness too, as does the social media.”

Recovery rooms are booming recently, with many club and county teams completing the general ice-bath, jacuzzi and sauna lap to aid recovery. Nugent says that the social aspect also brings teams closer together.

“There’s been a few boys, as with all clubs I’d say, who wouldn’t set foot in the ice bath.

“There’s plenty of roaring and shouting from other boys getting in.

‘Some other lads don’t show up because they don’t want their ego to take a hit if they jump out of it after a couple of minutes!”

“That social aspect is a good part of it, you’d see a lot of club teams coming in here to chill out after championship games, do you know, chatting about games, talking about what’s next.

“It keeps lads together and gives them time to chat,” he adds.

St Pat’s Cullyhanna have grown very close over this club season, in a run that culminates this Sunday in Croke Park.

“We’re going about seven months with the club now, which is great.

“We’ve had years where we’re gone after one or two championship games so you’d rarely see the boys.

“But the craic has been really good this year, it’s been a breath of fresh air.

9 January 2024; Aidan Nugent of Cullyhanna pictured ahead of the AIB GAA Club Football All-Ireland Intermediate Championship Final, between Cill na Mathra and St Patrick’s Cullyhanna. This season, AIB will honour #TheToughest players in Gaelic Games – those who persevere no matter what, giving their all for their club and community. AIB is in its 33rd year supporting the AIB GAA All-Ireland Club Championships. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

“There was sort of a decision to be made this year, it was like ‘what’s going to happen here, are we going to knuckle down and be serious about it, or are we going to keep free-falling until we hit rock bottom,” he says.

“Numbers and morale was low. We weren’t getting the results and they were tough times.

“To be fair to the management, they stuck on, stuck at it, got boys on board, got a few boys back into the fold from New York from Australia.

“A few boys who are still in school are pushing us on too.”

Between the club and county commitments, Nugent hasn’t had much of a break this year but he sees that as something to be enjoyed rather than a drag.

“Nowadays, there’s no real off-season for county players.

“When club season ends, lads get paranoid, they want to get ahead of the curve for pre-season. So most lads are back in the gym and doing runs by themselves anyway.

“So I think most lads at the minute, most lads train all year around anyway, whether it’s cross-fit, gymming and so on. It hasn’t at all felt like it’s dragged on, it’s been really enjoyable,” he says.

“There’s been ups and downs but you’ll take all them downs for weeks like this you know.

“That there’s buses heading to Croke Park to watch us, it makes you understand how big it is.”

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