"Footballers aren't designed to be power lifters. It's horses for courses" - Not about size for McLoughlin 4 months ago

"Footballers aren't designed to be power lifters. It's horses for courses" - Not about size for McLoughlin

He's asked not to take offence, he says he takes it as a compliment.

As inter-county players go, Kevin McLoughlin is skinny and in an interview leading up to Knockmore's Connacht final against Padraig Pearses, that's what he's asked about.

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Good job there are no hang-ups.

There could be because no matter where you look, whether it's Leitrim or Dublin or Waterford, in this day and age, you'll go a long way to find an inter-county Gaelic footballer who is tipping the scales at just over 12 stone. According to the archives, this is where the red-line stops for Kevin McLoughlin but for confirmation, all you need is photographic evidence.

There isn't much to him but with a stellar 12 year inter-county career behind him and with more ahead of him, if one thing's clear it's that this lack of size hasn't stopped him. You might get the idea, by looking at him, that he'd be pushed off the ball easily but again, it's clear that appearance can be deceptive because the truth is miles off.

McLoughlin is brilliant on the ball. When he has it, he's clever enough to keep his distance from opposition tacklers and that's how his lack of size has become a benefit rather than a hindrance. They can't get near him.

It's not about the size of the dog but the head on the dog and between playing his own game and using the gym as a different kind of weapon, a weapon that makes him faster, fitter and less prone to injuries, McLoughlin has it down to a tee.

"I'll take that as a compliment," he says with a laugh.

"The number one goal in doing your gym work in my opinion is to prepare you for game-time - to make sure that you are fitter and for  injury prevention. A lot of the gym work is designed to allow us play at our best.

"Footballers aren't designed to be power lifters, to go into a gym and lift crazy amount of weights. The aim is to prepare ourselves for a 70-minute game that mainly involves running.

"The norm of the county footballer is physically very strong," he says.

"But it's horses for courses - it depends where you play and the style you play. A guy around the middle of the pitch needs to be taller and stronger."

But that's not for everyone and that's why, at 5 ft 9 in and 78 kg, Kevin McLoughlin has, over the last 12 years, become one of the most consistent players in the country.

"Gym work is important," he concludes tellingly, "but not for the reason most people think."

Indeed, having been a club and county player for the best part of this millennium, the 34 year old is in a good place to comment on the tweaks and changes that have happened at both levels.

"In terms of the amount of pitch time I don't think that has changed over the last couple of years. Nutrition has obviously improved; strength and conditioning has gone up a level or two. When I got involved with Mayo in 2009 you would notice a few players that really looked after themselves - ticking all the boxed with nutrition and gym.

"They were the minority at the time back then. Everyone was training on the pitch but not everyone was putting in the work behind the scenes. Now, with all county teams, 99% are putting in that work behind the scenes."

Including the skinny ones.

This Sunday, as two-in-a-row Mayo champions, Knockmore will have a crack at Padraig Pearses in the Connacht senior football final. Gaelic football is everything in Knockmore and McLoughlin is eager to win the club's first provincial title since 1996.

 "One of my team-mates Kieran King said after the county final that when you're born in Knockmore there is very little else you can be doing apart from playing Gaelic or soccer. Gaelic is the most dominant sport. It is everything."

"This year we have learned to be a bit more dogged, we have grown a small bit. We're not the same team we were in 2020." 

And maybe that will give them the edge they need.

6 January 2022; Knockmore footballer Kevin McLoughlin in attendance at the AIB Connacht GAA Football Senior Club Final Media Day in MW Hire O'Moore Park in Portlaoise ahead of the AIB GAA Connacht Senior Club Football Championship Final, which takes place in Ballina, this Sunday, January 9th at 1.30pm and will see the Roscommon champions take on Mayo’s Knockmore.
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