Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Sport, Leisure and Childhood Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Cian O'Neill

Second Advisor

Dr. Con Burns


Background: Ensuring adequate rest and recovery is critical for the avoidance of overtraining and the achievement of optimal performance, therefore it is recommended that training load and recovery be continually monitored throughout the training year. The purpose of this research was to investigate training load and markers of wellness among elite Gaelic footballers to assist the regulation of such loading to optimise performance in an amateur sports setting.

Methods: Participants were selected from two elite Gaelic football teams (Division 1 and 3 respectively) where training load data (global positioning system (GPS), session rating of perceived exertion (s-RPE) and wellness markers) were collected across three seasons (9 months each). External training loads were measured via VX Sport 4 Hz GPS technology. Internal TE (s-RPE X Session Duration) was recorded for each player post session. Psychometric data were recorded each morning upon rising using the Metrifit athlete monitoring system, calculating a daily readiness to train (RTT) score for each player.

Results: Monitoring daily deviations of selected physiological and psychometric variables during a pre-competition training camp found significant daily variations in Total Distance (TD), High Speed Running (HSR) and internal Training Load (TL), yet there were no adverse effects on individual Counter Movement Jump (CMJ) or RTT scores on the following day. The coefficient of variation for the markers of RTT and CMJ across the entire week (CV; 13.87% & 7.98% small to moderate effect size respectively) demonstrated no significant day-to-day variation {p =-.369). An investigation into positional running demands of participants found significant relationships between competition and game-based training for mean high speed running and mean speed across each of the 5 positional lines (range r =.811 - .964 & r = .792 - .998 respectively). A comparative analysis of match-play running demands and technical performance between the Division 1 and 3 Teams found a contrast in HSR running demands by rank; the Division 3 team demonstrated significantly greater HSR (/? =.001), HSE {p =.024), RHSD ip =.002) and %HS ij? =.002) than the Division 1 team. From a technical performance perspective, the Division 1 team made a greater number of total tackles, with significantly more tackles in the middle third (p =.044), while the Division 3 team performed significantly greater number of hand passes (p =.007) and unsuccessful shots per game {p -.007). Analysis of seasonal variation in training load and wellness markers revealed a large difference between the pre-competition training blocks (i.e. Pre-Season 2 and In-Season 4) relative to the primary competition block (In-Season 6) for both external and internal load. Notably, there were significant differences in RTT across the eight seasonal blocks (p = .001, ES= .363).

Conclusion: The findings from this series of studies established that a pre-competition training camp can provide a dedicated period of time to develop tactical and team play elements while not adversely impacting levels of neuromuscular fatigue or perceptual ratings of wellness. Results also provide support and value for the application of a game- based training approach as a method of preparing players for the physical demands of competition in elite Gaelic football. Also, it was found that overall technical proficiency, rather than high-speed running profiles, differentiated Division 1 and 3 team performances. Finally, variation in training load was prevalent across the seasonal blocks, with targeted periods of loading and unloading clearly evident across different stages of the season as identified by associated wellness scores. This research provides critical information regarding elite Gaelic football players’ physiological running demands and training loads across competitive seasons, which enables coaches to be more accurate and agile in their planning and practices to optimise performance.

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