Cork hurlers look to former 800m man Matthews to give them a finishing kick
“What exactly is intensity? Or lack of intensity? You’d hear it all the time in hurling, but is it just speed endurance, running at a different pace, keeping it going?
“So my definition of hurling intensity, now, is your ability to keep going, before you start to fatigue. That’s everything – carrying, hooking, blocking, all the basic skills. Because when a player gets tired the first thing that goes is his head.
“And this idea that defending starts from the full-forward line is certainly true. That’s why it’s so important for the forwards to have the same conditioning as the midfielders, and backs.
Touch of a surgeon
“Balance is also key. These guys need the fitness of an athlete and the touch of a surgeon, more so when in oxygen debt.
“I remember when I’d finish an 800m if someone asked me the seven-times tables I’d be lost, because when you’re in major oxygen debt like that, the first thing that goes is your concentration.”
Given his strict running background, Matthews is understandably keen to keep pace with whatever training the Cork hurlers are doing, which means retaining the stopwatch from his own running days:
“We’d also repeat sessions, over a 10-day cycle, so that players would have some tangible evidence of how they were progressing, whether that was over a 180m sprint, or simply lining up against each other.
“Because the clock never lies. Anyone can tell a player they’re fit, but it’s much better, psychologically, if they know it themselves.”
Dunphy was quizzed on some of these philosophies at Dublin’s recent press day, and whether he believed this 800m fitness was so perfect?
“You’re looking at sprint endurance. I wouldn’t compare it to 800m, maybe a bit in the pre-season, but I’d go a bit lower, closer to 400m runners. But I’m not sure, because that’s being a bit too simplistic about it.
“Look at a world-class kayaker. I know he’s not running, but he has to be very mobile, very strong in the upper body. Then someone like a bobsledder has to have powerful explosion.
“Maybe if you could marry a bobsledder and a kayaker and put a bit of hurling into them you’d have a prototype?”
Interestingly, their respective roles have reversed slightly for this Sunday: Dublin’s won’t have played in the five weeks since their Leinster final win over Galway, while Cork – who had to endure a 10-week wait before their successful Munster championship opener against Clare – are back out again just two weeks after beating All-Ireland champions Kilkenny.
“I know all athletes would have this perception of being “rusty” if they hadn’t raced like that, in a long while,” noted Matthews. “Tapering, as any athlete will tell you, is a sort of holy grail, hard to find, but key to getting things right.”
Both teams, presumably then, will at least be suitably tapered for Sunday.