How manager's friendship with Anthony Foley is transforming Laois hurling
Laois hurling manager, Eamonn Kelly, spent a year learning from the Munster rugby team.
It has been well documented over the past number of years the way in which inter-county hurling and football is becoming increasingly professional.
The ever increasing drive for success has yielded new styles of management and an influx of new type backroom staff which has included sports psychologists, statisticians, dieticians and strength & conditioning coaches.
The desire to get just one step ahead of your rivals in order to gain a competitive edge has also led to inter-county sides obtaining information from other professional sports in this country and the latest example of this has come from Laois Hurling manager, Eamonn Kelly.
Kelly, who took over as senior hurling manager of the county at the end of last year, revealed to the GAA Hour that he had spent up to 12 months as a 'fly on the wall' with Munster Rugby after being invited by his late, close friend, Anthony Foley.
This was revealed after it was noted how he now sits in the stands when his side play, something which he decided to do after having a conversation with Foley.
"He was always saying to me that he just didn’t get it at all when you see GAA managers going mad on the sidelines. 'How can you concentrate on what’s going on, you should be back up there getting a good look at it.' So that’s where I am, I wanted to try it and it is easier," Kelly said.
For Kelly, it was a pure learning experience, with the ultimate goal of trying to see what aspects of the professional rugby environment can be applied to inter-county hurling.
Of course, the games are very different but the attitudes of players and the competitiveness between teammates with regards to posting numbers in training is something he sees as transferable.
"I was very keen to see what they were doing around their video analysis, game preparation and all that. I went into their team meetings, I went to their match preparation days...
"... I don’t think that side (structure during games) will come through in the GAA but I think we need to get an understanding of what are we being judged on here. Our video analysis and our stats are open to all the squads, so the lads will try to spark themselves against one another and that’s one part I would have taken on board an awful lot with the Munster team. It would have been the goals and targets and everybody being accountable to one another."
For the former Offaly and Kerry hurling manager, he sees the experience as truly enlightening and although he admits that it is unlikely to see set plays introduced into the game because of it's speed, he acknowledges that there should be a greater focus on the statistics surrounding key indicators of the game, such as turnovers, shots, hooks and blocks.
"How many shots did we have in what areas of the fields? How many hooks and blocks did we set ourselves to do today? How many did we get?
"These are the measures which I think are important to use in the GAA side. You could have a corner forward that comes away with 1-2 and he’s delighted with himself but his man might have cleared 14 balls and given away 3-2 at the far end you know? That’s the part of it for me that everyone has to be educated in and understanding what is expected of each other."
It remains to be seen just how much success will be gained for Laois from Kelly's experience with Munster but in a sport which is increasingly on the look out for new ideas and philosophies in order to gain a competitive edge, his experience may prove crucial.