There is always a certain sense of trepidation when a team makes the jump from the First Division to the top tier of Irish soccer. Monaghan United have proved that whatever about the difference in standard, the financial implications alone from the move can prove detrimental.
However, this term both Shelbourne and Cork City have shown they are capable of mixing it with the best. Indeed, yesterday’s result means the latter are now on a run of nine unbeaten league games. Late goals have undoubtedly been key to this.
They have had a part to play in all the standout moments so far this season down south. Vinny Sullivan, John Dunleavy and Shane Duggan have all produced heroic moments and the fans have loved every single one of them.
But to suggest so many strikes in the last 15 minutes is a freakish coincidence would be terribly remiss.
Dunleavy says this is the fittest he’s ever been, Neal Horgan said it helped him majorly when getting fit and everybody saw how much it benefitted Tadhg Purcell before he departed for England.
So what is this magical method that’s made City the fittest team in the league?
Well, it’s a body weight exercise called TRX and it’s being preached by strength and conditioning coach Paudie Horgan, one of only 22 people in the entire planet to be fully qualified to teach the workout.
Horgan explains the basic concept of it: “It’s a strap hanging from the ceiling and such a simple thing to do. It reduces the chance of injury, increases your movement and mobility. It’s a full body weight exercise where you’re moving in three dimensional planes.
“After the first session you’ll start to feel the effects. You’ll feel pain from this that you’ve never felt in your life before because you wouldn’t be used to lifting your own body weight.
“Every single body weight you do in the gym, you can do it with this. If you can bicep 15kg in the gym fair play to you, but this is using your full weight.”
City have scored almost a third of their goals in all competitions in the final 15 minutes so far this season, providing proof that the implementation of TRX is paying off and the former Llanelli Scarlets rugby player says he had promised Tommy Dunne that they would be in better shape than anybody come this stage of the campaign.
“When we set out I said to Tommy that we would have the fittest team in the league by July and it’s starting to show now. In the past few games we’ve shown that and it’s getting to the stage now where we’re cutting people up.”
Some might think that footballers aren’t the most receptive to cutting edge scientific techniques: the majority of them just want to kick a ball and hate the other side to training. Yet Horgan, who is about to open a specific TRX gym in Douglas on the southside of the city in the next couple of weeks, says that the players took it all in and are now fully converted.
“It went down very well with them. They’re very receptive to anything and the beauty of it is that it reduces injury by up to 87% so they took that on board. Tommy was probably questioning the benefits of it at the beginning but he saw how Gearóid Morrissey and some others put on muscle.
“The big one as far as I’m concerned though was Tadhg Purcell. I did a lot of one-to-one work with him and he dropped about 11% body fat with his fitness going through the roof as well.
“The challenge for me was getting injured players fit again. The way I work is I consult with the physio and then Tommy leaves me work by my own accord which is brilliant.”
Interestingly, it was a former City midfielder now playing elsewhere that brought the club and Horgan together.
“It came down to Joe Gamble, believe it or not. We’re both finishing a diploma in strength and conditioning in Setanta College and he said they were looking for someone in Limerick. But I was looking to stay closer to home and I had only finished my PhD so Joe made some calls to Billy Woods, who put me through to Tommy and he gave me a shot at it.”
The rest is history but there’s little doubt that the future is TRX. As Horgan says, it’s going to explode in the next while and is likely to become a worldwide fitness phenomenon. His own story of coming across the exercise is a strange one, though he’s now the most qualified teacher in both Ireland and Britain.
“I was living in New York and had just finished my masters and working with the New York Islanders ice hockey team. This thing came in our door one day and I started playing around with it. I initially got into it like that and started doing TRX courses. I did the normal STC (suspension training course) and then the group one. I’m the only one in Ireland to have done that one and I’ve now just come back from Zurich where I did the sports instructor medicine course.
“There are 22 in the world qualified to teach it and I’m one of them, which is a massive achievement.”
Alan Smith has been writing for ExtraTime since 2008. He works as a full-time journalist based in Cork, working as a sub-editor for TCM and freelancing for a range of national titles. Follow him on twitter @alansmith90.