BY CHRIS MCNULTY
KARL Lacey believes that top-line GAA players are on a par with some of the world’s top athletes when it comes to preparation for games.
The Four Masters man, a four-time All-Star and the 2012 Footballer of the Year, spent a fortnight on placement with Arsenal FC in December as part of his studies.
Lacey was studying for a Masters in Sports Performance at University of Limerick and the avid Arsenal fan got to do his placement with the Gunners at London Colney.
“I was surprised not just at the level they’re at, but at the level we’re at,” Lacey said.
“They’re actually not doing anything that differently to what we’re doing.
“I’m an Arsenal supporter and people say that Arsenal are one of the teams who are well ahead of things in terms of sports science. As an athlete you’re always looking for new ideas and to see how you can get better.
“I believe that the GAA is right up there in the sports science side of things and, if anything, are maybe ahead of some other sports in that end.”
After starring for Donegal on their way to winning the All-Ireland in 2012, Lacey received a letter of congratulations from the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger.
Earlier this year, the 30-year-old joined Sky Sports Living for Sport as an Athlete Mentor.
Having spent most of last year making the commute from Limerick to Donegal for training, Lacey noticed one big difference during his time at Arsenal.
Speaking at the first-ever Donegal GAA Health and Wellbeing Conference in Ballybofey on Wednesday night, Lacey said: “There was nothing too much different. They’re full-time athletes and they obviously have huge resources. That’s one huge difference.
“What I took out of it was that they have serious focus on the health of the athlete.
“Every time players come in in the morning, they’re assessed straight away, blood and urine samples are taken every day and they do different muscle tests each day as well.
“They’ll check for any fatigue issues as well. All of that is down to time because they can spend that hour or two whereas our guys are working and we only have three hours every second night where we’re together.”
Meanwhile, the Donegal team trained in Downings on Saturday and, while a number of the frontline players sat out club action in the All-County League, Rory Gallagher has no major injury concerns three weeks out from their Ulster SFC clash with Tyrone.
Martin McElhinney (groin strain) didn’t play for St Michael’s in their win over Ardara and while he was said to be struggling for fitness, it is expected that he will make a return to training later this week.
Michael Murphy, Neil Gallagher, Ryan McHugh, Martin O’Reilly and Paddy McGrath were among those who didn’t line out for their clubs at the weekend, none are said to be ‘doubtful’.