"The weights fell off both sides and I was left with the bar like a plonker" 3 weeks ago

"The weights fell off both sides and I was left with the bar like a plonker"

"I hopped onto the bench and thought, 'This is going to be grand'."

Strength, conditioning and general fitness has come on leaps and bounds in the past 15 years. Any county not fully on board with the increase in strength and fitness work will have players that are literally left behind.

It is a long time, in more ways than one, since 1989, when Michael Duignan lined out for an All-Ireland semi-final against Galway. At The GAA Hour Live, down in Wexford, Duignan wonderfully recounted a tale from the morning of that game:

"I was down for breakfast and my father was there. He's a Connemara man, a Galway man, and this is the fella that famously doesn't have Sky.

"He's a fierce Galway man and I was there pushing the breakfast around the plate. There was no dieticians at that time. It was the full fry. My mother was yapping away and my father was quiet; he was reading the paper. He let down the paper and said, "What's wrong with you?'

"I said, 'Dad, I'm shook; I'm nervous'. I was only 20 and I was playing midfield. Galway had won the All-Ireland in 1987 and 88... I went out the back and came back, told him it was my stomach as I was fierce nervous.

"My father said, 'If I was you, I'd eat up, out of that. There's no point being in the middle of Croke Park making a fool of yourself, and being hungry as well!'"

Duignan returned to the table and finished the fry. At least he was not hungry as he, and his teammates, got a chasing by Galway and missed out on the final.

Fitness and diets had kicked on a bit when Michael Carton and Colm Parkinson were breaking into their senior inter-county squads but, as both recalled on The GAA Hour [from 16:00 below], there was still a lot to learn.

Michael Carton celebrates with the Leinster SHC trophy after Dublin's 2013 triumph. (Credit: David Maher/SPORTSFILE)

Carton was playing for Dublin minors and Under 21s, as well as studying for his Leaving Cert, when he was first called into his county's senior side.

The former half-back recalled his first Dublin gym session with the senior hurlers:

"I remember rocking up and I'd never been to a gym in my life. I just loved hurling.

"I lay down on the bench and I thought, 'Grand. This is going to be grand'. I lifted the bar and I had no clips on either end. The weights came off one side, onto the floor, and the other and I was left holding the bar like a plonker!

"I was hoping for the ground to swallow me up. But there was no such thing as a proper [work-out] plan. It was going to the bench and bench-pressing. There was no strength and conditioning plans back 15 years."

Parkinson recalled a similar situation when, early in his senior Laois career, he went to the gym at I.T Tralee with Jim McGuinness. "This was back in 1998 and I wasn't going to the gym, but Jim was.

"I remember doing so many bicep curls that my arms were bent. I couldn't straighten them. When I pushed my arms out flat, they bounced back up and I was thinking, 'When will this end?!'"

We've come a long way since the early noughties and, as the game gets closer to professional levels at senior level, one suspects our top players are only getting started.