The club versus country debate is a thorny issue when it comes to international football. All too often, especially when it comes to perceived meaningless friendlies, key players return to their clubs with slight strains only to appear the following weekend.
With 16 years’ experience of working with the Irish national team, senior physiotherapist Ciaran Murray is better placed than most to talk about player management.
Without delving into the debate too much, Murray admits that first and foremost, the players are contracted to the club. They are released by the club on request from the International team and they will only do so once they are fit and ready for action.
Once with the national team, it is the responsibility of Murray and his team to ensure that they manage the player.
If a player is unfit or injured they examine him and investigate the cause. They listen to the player and they communicate with the national team manager and the club, offering their insight into the situation.
The medical team’s responsibility is to protect the welfare of the player and they use the tools available to them to build the case for exclusion. Ultimately though it is the manager that makes the final call.
Younger players are harder to manage. They are often less-established at club and international level and are keen to make their mark.
More than an experienced player, one who has either suffered from injury or engaged with someone who has, the young player often thinks with their heart more so than their head.
The correct course of rehabilitation and rest is required to get back to full fitness however that is something that less experienced players don’t often think about.