FOOTBALL RULES!

The title of the February blog sounds like a piece of graffiti, doesn’t it?…  But no,  it is more about some of the regulations that govern our national games. One of which affects hurling also and being from Kilkenny, Hurling still rules! Smiley face.

BLACK CARD

Firstly, that Black Card! What a unnecessary addition to the rule book it was.  Again, at the weekend, I was watching the Mayo v Galway National league tie on TG4. Yes, Kilkenny people do have an interest in Gaelic Football.  It was a great start to the game with one of the best ever goals scored by Mayo’s James Carr. It was fast and open and end to end. Very entertaining.  Then after about fifteen minutes, Galway who were leading by one point had a player black carded.  Rightly so based on the rules. This was followed by ten minutes of drivel. Boring, slow, possession football. Of course, then there was the minimum touch of a player to give away a free and goodness knows you’d think the player was lucky to be alive as he killed the elapsed time for his team. Yes, brilliantly controlled by Galway, but in my opinion the game never recovered to the entertaining levels that it had started with.  

All Gaelic Football Managers know now what to do when their team is ahead and one of their players is black carded for the requisite ten minutes.  It’s no longer a surprise. Their job is to win the game and they are not breaking any rules. Morally its terrible. Entertainment wise it is horrible in the extreme, though they would argue they are not there to entertain.  The fee paid on the gate would suggest otherwise.  There has to be some onus to entertain the paying customer. Players are coached to manage the game in this way should the black card occur. Personally, I couldn’t say I wouldn’t do it, but to put the moral pressure on a player is a big call. A player who is a winner and wants to deliver as many top plays as possible and top it with scores. It is a dilemma for the purist who are there to enjoy  the sport in a free flowing style. It is not really sporting but it can be the prudent thing to do to win the game. Does morals or intelligence supersede?

Take the Black Card out of the equation and give a Yellow Card for the offence.  I don’t believe you would have the same result as the yellow card only affects the culprit. The game would still flow. The Black Card was introduced to wipe out cynicism in the game especially in the dying moments. We all remember the infamous Sean Kavanagh (Tyrone) incident.  However, in my opinion, the black card was not needed, there was enough in Yellow and red. It was just adding another layer of complexity to the already over worked official’s roster. The only thing that needed to be added was that if, in the view of the referee, it is a goalscoring opportunity, it should be an automatic red. If it was a point scoring opportunity, yellow would be sufficient, because you’d expect handing the ball to your dedicated free taker without someone trying to stop them would be a better guarantee than any other player or the free taker themselves being tackled. If it was a second offence, it is automatically red. The punishments were there and less likely to disrupt a very good match and teams could still be reduced but game management becomes a bigger challenge when it is permanent.  As it is, the reward of punishing someone with a black card is now the punishment of the paying patrons as they endure poppycock football while the team game manage for 10 minutes.   But lets spare a thought for the player who takes the soft hit that almost kills him during that period.  He took it for the team, but forever should be remembered as “soft”.

SIXTEEN PLAYERS

The other issue which has got a lot of social media airtime in the last week or two was the final moments of the All-Ireland Club football final between Kilmacud Crokes and Glen. Last ’45 of the game for Glen. Kilmacud lead by two points.  Kilmacud bring on two substitutes but only one player comes off leaving sixteen players defending. The ’45 is taken and successfully defended. The whistle blows. Kilmacud lift the cup, but everyone is immediately aware of an issue involving player numbers albeit too late to rectify withing the confines of the match.

Whether the blame lies with the officials, the Kilmacud management or the Kilmacud player who did not leave the field of play. It is irrelevant. A rule is broken! Blame does not matter, even less than had the goalkeeper made a howler to concede a goal. The rule in this case is straightforward, you cannot have more than fifteen players on the pitch.

The punishment is one of three options. Firstly, a fine. This was never going to be an option for Kilmacud who are seen as a huge club with huge resources.  A fact that was not hidden during earlier controversial transfer issues, which to be fair is irrelevant also, although it does affect public sentiment, especially rural teams. Next there was forfeit the game.  This was in my opinion and in many others, too much on the basis of the crime.  This only left the middle ground of a replay. If Kilmacud officials left Croke Park after the game and did not realise this was a very strong possibility under the circumstances, then they are guilty of not familiarising themselves with the rules and consequences of the game. I very much doubt this is the case.  It was not a surprise to anyone, the course of events.

Most social media “experts” (amazing how many of them want to highlight their ignorance) are giving out about the length of time it took to rule on a replay.  Once the game was ended by the referee, due process kicks in. GAA rules kick in and again every club official in the country understands the process, or should do. Glen was given time to gather information and decide a course of action.  The GAA authorities had to wait and follow the process which is akin to a legal process. When the ruling was made, the same curtesy is given to Kilmacud Crokes to counter the ruling.  Like every legal process it is a laborious process. However, it is a process aimed at fair play in light of unfortunate circumstances. The vast majority of GAA administrators who work night and day for the organisation understand the process as well as many true GAA supporters.  The social media “experts” should expend their energy more productively in becoming administrators to appreciate the process rather than ranting embarrassingly. Especially the ones who tell what they’d do with their ”medal”.  Seriously!  What are the chances? Wonderful Imagination as well.

It is unfortunate, but blame does not come into it. It happened and action has to happen.  Will Glen want a replay and the possibility of being beaten a second time? Will Crokes want a replay and the possibility of not winning within the rules? Only they know.  The circumstances suggest they both need to do it again to exercise the ghosts and hopefully, the winners this time, can enjoy guilt free celebrations.

Sport is behaving in a good or specified way in response to teasing, defeat, or a similarly trying situation.  Sometimes people forget about sport when it comes to gathering roll of honour listings. Let’s remember GAA is sport.

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PRIDE OF THE PARISH

Pride of the Parish!  How much does it exist anymore in the GAA?  Joe Brolly in a recent Irish Independent article stated that the “GAA hierarchy have allowed our game to become professional for everyone except the player”. The article goes on to suggest “only a club man could manage his club and only a county man could manage his county”. Big and bold suggestion in the present day.

Whether you agree with the infamous Joe or not, it does invite thorough consideration and what it means for the GAA, now and in the future.  In doing so it is also worth remembering why the GAA was formed. It was founded on the 1st November 1884, in Hayes Hotel, Thurles by a group of spirited Irishmen who had the foresight to realise the importance of establishing a national organisation to make athletics more accessible to the masses and to revive and nurture traditional, indigenous sports and pastimes.  The organisation is based around the traditional parish and county structures of Ireland. As a community-based organisation, it is often stated that it is difficult to determine where the community ends and the GAA club starts, as the two are so often intertwined. The GAA has over 2,200 clubs in all 32 counties of Ireland, not to mention the many branches all over the world catering for the Irish diaspora and non-Irish too.  The principle of parish and county has served the organisation well in the main for the past 139 years.

Yes, there has always been issues about physical boundaries and yes of course people moved into areas for reasons of work and marriage in the main. However, in the past they became part of their adopted community, not just the GAA, but the community also as they were intertwined.  They may have had a soft spot for the parish/county of their birth but they were proud to row in fully behind their adopted home. Their adopted Pride of the Parish. Traditionally, the elite of the game have gone to other locations to promote and nurture the games in true GAA ethos and have always been welcomed in true Irish fashion for that short interval before they return to their true parish/county.  It was imperative for the growth and promotion of the games.  All the above were sound principles for a community organisation to develop and flourish.  The tribalism of the parish/county rule was well suited to the Irish culture and heritage.

Have we now, possibly unwittingly, reached a new juncture of decision and direction?  The organisation which once proudly boasted of being amateur, now headlines with the term “professional” and not just professional in approach which in itself, has many merits in the modern world. Is it right? Once it was only the referee and the landowner that got paid.  Now it’s the managers, the coaches, the S&C coach in particular, the psychologists, the doctors, the physios, the logistics co-ordinators, the kit minders, the county secretaries, the performance development officers, the gym owners, and all the ancillary stakeholders. Some of which are obviously essential.  Of course, this is not true across the board that all these people get paid.  Ask the Camogie, the Ladies Football, the weaker hurling and football counties, but it is a trend with more and more counties/codes following that trend. Yet, it maybe the right way to go, especially if you subscribe to the notion that the GAA is now an industry similar to horse racing. An Industry that could be sustained and provide a living to many people by taking advantage of the wonderful suite of game products the organisation provides, promotes and was founded to promote.  The profits could benefit so many Irish people should the product continue to grow. Maybe the current GAA hierarchy are no different in their outlook to those spirited men of 1884 as they push the products to the next level. Maybe there is a case at the elite level, in particular, to become a genuine sports industry with profits and losses and potential liquidation and receivership should an individual business fail.

In industry, sometimes pushing the product can also damage the brand and the foundation upon which it was built. Joe Brolly’s reference to only the players not being allowed to become professional is one for which I cannot agree, but the payments are becoming more widespread and worryingly at club/parish level they continue to grow across all codes. At the moment, almost every club is paying a manager, a coach and a physio/first aid person for their main adult team. This is outside competition fees, referee fees, transport, equipment, maintenance and development of facilities to name but a few outgoings. Like all businesses, the more people get paid, the more will want to get paid and the more people will want to get paid in line with ever growing inflation.  Is this sustainable at club level? I don’t think so unless the rights for streaming club matches shoots up hugely and admission prices grow to almost unattainable levels.  Such moves would be in direct contrast with the reasons why the GAA was formed in the first place. Games would become less accessible to the masses. Is there even a population to support such moves, particularly in the smaller counties without a city population?

If we focus primarily on the club managers/coaches, we discover that over 90% of them come from outside the Parish, in all codes at this point. But for every one of them there is probably dozens of similar people within the club/parish who would love the opportunity and honour to take the highest manager/coaching role within their own club.  However, for so many of them there will never be that opportunity.  They never made it on to the circuit. They had real life jobs that didn’t allow them the time to pursue a “course” in sports development.  Some may have great knowledge but lack confidence. Their club preferred to invest the coaching budget in people from outside the club/parish rather than within.  They didn’t have success with an underage team in the club, so they must be useless ignoring the fact that the genuine ones focused on developing as many players as possible and giving chances to as many as possible, the masses as envisaged by the founders of the GAA. I believe that deep down the vast majority of underage coaches in a club do have ambitions to coach/manage at the highest level in their own club.  They may not say it out loud, because they know they are not in the right clique, do not have the right term on the CV and such ambitions would be laughed at, in public. Nobody wants to be laughed at by their neighbour.

The mad thing is, some can go to other clubs in the same way as outsiders come to their club and get paid! Because if you pay for something it must be “very good”.  What use is anything you get for “free”? This is the general attitude out there amongst growing numbers of club executives. The man/woman who comes from another club is brilliant, not withstanding the fact that their own club won’t let them next or near their own team.  The gas thing is the “outsider” is primarily there for the money and their own reputation. Pride of the Parish does not come into it although it is essential for the performance. Yes, sometimes its small money and it’s just about trying to build that reputation for future roles and get your name on the circuit, which is relatively small and elite, though not necessarily in quality.   I have never known an “outside” manager/coach to be heartbroken after leaving a club. They are good at the overall stage performance when they quit of their own accord in the aftermath of a championship exit. That’s part of the package, the exit performance. Some walk the minute the final whistle sounds and perform brilliantly in the dressing room aftermath to win mass empathy. Very few leave quietly with the dignity of Brian Cody**, a man who was well entitled to sing about his achievements. You can be sure they are on the lookout for a new suitor in weeks if not days. Their pride was not in the parish but in themselves. The ones that are shown the door, certainly have no Pride of the Parish. Their bitterness will be apparent when you meet them at a later stage, but not bitter as in disappointed to be gone from a dream job, but rather bitter in that the reputation has been tarnished.

The GAA is built on volunteerism. Now for more and more prestige jobs, the volunteer is no longer welcome. The volunteer upon which the success of the GAA is built. However, that same volunteer is expected to fundraise with growing amounts now being channeled into “outside expertise”. To pay for roles that they would gladly volunteer. In my experience, the most horrible part of volunteering is fundraising. Yes, sometimes the actual end event can be a magnificent social occasion. However, the organisation and time involved is not a fun pastime.  Not something many like doing in the free time from their day job. More and more it doesn’t end with a great social occasion with more and more raffles and lotto being the fundraiser of choice. Is this really the pastime the volunteer wants? Fundraise in the hope that your club/parish wins the championship.  No matter how many “outside” managers/coaches are brought in, only one of them can win the championship in a single year. Some clubs go decades without that elusive success at the top adult level. The reality is that every club’s ambition (should be) is to win senior (the highest level) in their county.  There are only 32 of them per code in the country each year. Many clubs have never won it. Many have not won it for a long time. Many are several levels below even competing for it. However, every individual pinnacle ambition should be striving to achieve it and not how much you get for helping opponents along the way.  Payments are for jobs, not a key component of enjoying “traditional, indigenous sports and pastimes”. Most of all, its is a pastime and should be enjoyed whether you are a player, a coach, an administrator or a supporter.

Joe Brolly is right in raising the subject, but his focus is not necessarily completely right.  And to be pedantic Joe, it’s Games and not just a game. Games that are played by both genders, coached by both genders and administrated by both genders at all levels. The debate should not just be about the players but rather all who want to enjoy our games (the masses) but cannot because their CV is not containing the right buzz words, or their invoice does not have the right heading on the paper.  Maybe there is a role for professionalism across all strands of the elite level (inter-county), but it is hard to see this genuinely existing at the lower Club levels.

Soccer or Association Football is a massively professional and monetary generating game in England. Yet there are thousands upon thousands of junior or Sunday league clubs in existence who fully rely on volunteers to survive. It is their hobby, their pastime where the vast majority dream they are playing or involved in big Premiership games, even though it might only be a local league final. Ultimately it gives them enjoyment which is fundamental for the success of any pastime. A chance to live their dream on a relative stage.  If voluntary clubs are the foundation of English soccer where there is obscene wealth at the elite level, common-sense should apply in similar circumstances in our games when it comes to professionalising them at the lower levels.

The time is ripe for a discussion across the GAA structures. The horse is bolting but we (the GAA as a whole) might be able to lasso it in time. It should take place in each local club outside of AGM’s and executive committee meetings.  Involve the parish.  For some it will be a first step in restoring the Pride of the Parish, intertwining the community and the club to it’s maximum once again. I know there are many people with great thoughts who are too shy or lack confidence to express them to their neighbours in the Community. Club executives need to find innovative ways to untap the potentially wonderful thoughts of all in their community. Then they need to find ways to pursue and move the findings through the democratic structures of the GAA, which do exist but often are not used correctly.

Pride of the Parish.  Club and community in harmony, is just as essential as it was on the 1st November 1884, when the GAA was founded at Hayes Hotel, Thurles.  Let’s not forget why the GAA is…


This is a huge subject with so many angles and this article touches on some of it.  All opinions are my own, but hopefully it generates the seed of thought. Primarily I’m a writer who loves the GAA, especially Kilkenny or maybe I’m a GAA person who loves to write. You can make your own mind up. If you would like to discuss this article, please feel free to leave a comment or email me at seamusdnorris@gmail.com.


** As this is my first blog in a while, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Brian Cody for the many wonderful times over the years while he was manager of the Kilkenny Senior Hurlers. Brian, you were an inspiration to us all and allowed us in Kilkenny to enjoy our pastime to the extreme level of enjoyment on so many occasions. You were a genuine and ultimate Pride of the Parish role model. I’m guessing you don’t “follow me” but hopefully somebody will pass this on.

 

 

DUAL PLAYERS DOUBLE WINNERS 2021

Piltown Under-12 girls GAA players had the historic distinction in 2021 of winning both the Ladies Football and Camogie “A” county Championship titles in Kilkenny.  A fantastic achievement for the players and the team managements.  The achievement made many people very proud and very happy, parents, grandparents, siblings, club officers and coaches.  I was especially happy and proud as two of the key team management were my daughters, Lisa (Ladies Football) and Jennifer (Camogie). I admire the dedication and enthusiasm they brought to it and along with the other members of the management, the great way they had with dealing with the players.  I loved, their attention to detail and watching and listening their planning and preparation for matches. The time off the pitch in preparatory mode, was just as much as the time on the pitch.  Their appreciation of being dual players themselves was evident in games approach.  At times I may have been a sounding board, which I enjoyed, but the achievement was all theirs along with their fellow management team members of Sandra Quinn, Pauline Coady and Kevin Barry and of course the players of both teams. Extra credit to Sandra who was involved with both teams.

Under-12 is young and not intended to be competitive, although tell that to any of the players and some of the parents.  However, I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that both management teams used every opportunity to develop the girls as players and good people, keep them challenged, ensure enjoyment and provided plenty of game time for every single player throughout the competitions.  This was the managements greatest achievement, more so than winning the competitions.

For these girls, in this year, they have achieved the ultimate. They could win no more.  This is a feat that they can only ever equal. Even if they go on to win All-Ireland Senior Club titles in a single year. even though it will feel much bigger, the measurement will be the same. The reality is, although they have the potential of winning huge in Camogie outside the county, unfortunately, the same in football is unlikely due to the status of football in Kilkenny. However, every achievement in football will take on greater significance in the whole scheme of things as the challenge will be that much greater, especially outside the county. 

The challenge to maintain that momentum, will grow exponentially year on year.  There will be so many hurdles and distractions; Academic and career ambitions and choices, relationships and health are standard obstacles as people develop in sport.  Within the sport, continued enjoyment, varying management and coaching philosophies, opponent development, attitude and involvement in other sports and activities and the challenges of elite (inter-county) sport will all serve to make the journey of attaining the maximum results annually, near impossible.  To have any hope of maintaining the potential shown, it will take a lot of joined up thinking and planning by all parties involved now and in the future. Both Camogie and Ladies Football working together with coaches and administrators and parents over the immediate future years.  Parents, did not achieve what their daughters achieved and in general will have no concept of what is required to continue that in the future with a view to those days that will feel even bigger than those enjoyed in 2021. In fact, most coaches will not know either as this is a first for Piltown. Slaughtneil in Derry comes to mind as being one of the few who might have an insight. Time planning how to face the challenges may be just as productive from a development point of view as time spent working in gyms and progressing the skills.

As for the matches, both finals bore testament to the character and resolve of the players and of course their managements.  Wonderful foundation to have for the challenges that lie ahead. Although the football team had been tested along the way, they could not have foreseen the huge test from Thomastown in the final.  First of all, the challenge of going to the lion’s den had to be overcome.  Then a tit for tat battle took place on the pitch.  Thomastown led by a point coming down the home straight but Piltown had the courage to equalise and bring proceedings to extra time.  Within a minute of the start of extra time, Thomastown nudged ahead with a point.  Then came a tsunami finish from Piltown.  Although the girls had played so many games, day after day, it stood to them as they had the stamina built to combine with the confidence to get over the line by a four-point winning margin.  The Camogie team had a different route to the final. To be fair they weren’t really put to the sword.  They had cruised through.  Cruising is alright until something goes wrong, such as an early injury to a key player.  It was a slight rattle, but the ship balanced again, and Piltown looked like they were in control against a battling John Lockes. Then another iceberg was hit when a penalty was given just before half time. It unnerved the team and when two more goals followed just after the break, the Camogie team was in uncharted territory. However, they just need time to compose themselves and a small break to go their way.  It eventually did and again the girls’ stamina and character shone through as they cruised yet again in the final quarter for a 11-point victory.  Again, similar to the football, the amount of games played by the players was not an obstacle to success. Maybe there is something in the World Health Organisation recommendation for physical activity in children and adolescents aged 5-17 years.

  • Should do at least an average of 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous intensity, mostly aerobic, physical activity, across the week.
  • Should incorporate vigorous-intensity aerobic activities, as well as those that strengthen muscle and bone, at least 3 days a week.
  • Should limit the amount of time spent being sedentary, particularly the amount of recreational screen time.

We listen to them (WHO) for COVID-19 instruction, so why not when it comes to physical activity. Some people say or think children and/or adolescents do “too much”. The reality is that “too much” is a lot and very few reach it.  

Whatever, happens, I hope the players are allowed build on the great foundation and go on to be great role models like those who built the foundation.

MANAGING AND COACHING ADULTS

A player’s enjoyment of GAA games at adult level is shaped very much by the person(s) who manage or coach the team.  In general, if you like the content and the way it is presented, you are going to enjoy it more, be proactive, perform better and stay longer.  So, what is a typically good productive session?  Obviously, there will be exceptions, but this is looking at what a “good productive session” should be like in my opinion.  Let’s start putting together the Team Jigsaw. First of all, it is important to understand the difference between a Manager and a Coach and subsequently understand the logic if any of that being one and the same person.

MANAGER: Composes team strategies, sets out a team tactics, picks the team and subs, is in charge of disciplinary matters and putting “restrictions” on their players and is the link to all points of administration. The buck stops with the Manager.

COACH: The coach puts those strategies into action and provides specific skills such as hurling/football/camogie nous and skills development, speed, core strength, general fitness and mental development.  It is rare to have proficiency in all these attributes

In my humble opinion, one manager and multiple coaches are required in a top-class team management setup.  The term Selector is antiquated.  Having someone on board whose only skill is purely having an opinion on who plays where is about as useful as a sieve without holes.  Every “hurler on the ditch” has that type of opinion. Everyone involved in a management team must offer something that is beneficial to the team and team goals. Like in any career path, the coach often moves on to be a manager and have the ability to coach certain areas, but they must remember their primary role is manager at that stage. Paying Managers at Club level, in this day and age where there is so much knowledge and coaching development in every locality (or should be) is madness.  Also, adult players have the right to be treated as adults, not juveniles.

GAMES BASED TRAINING is the key to modern group sessions. About 75% of the majority of sessions should be devoted to playing the game you are training for.  This means matches, conditional matches, or practical tactical development.  Could you imagine a swimmer training for the Olympics and barely swimming?  Spending most of their time in a gym or running around the pool to increase fitness. They’d probably drown.  Metaphorically that’s what happens a lot of GAA teams, often only saved because the opposition did the same type of preparation. Or a boxer just hitting a punch bag or even shadow boxing and never actually sparring? He or she would be out cold in seconds against a real fighter. Focus on the sport you intend playing.  Most club teams only train twice a week for a period of less than 90 minutes each. That’s when they are together and can work together, playing the game. Playing the game is the main reason for playing the sport.  If the player enjoys group activity, he or she will enjoy the game.

FITNESS is something a player can do on their own outside the group. If they only do the two 90-minute sessions a week, they will never be fit enough anyway.  So, educating the player to understand the responsibility of fitness is in their own hands is important.  In any case trying to get a club squad fit using the same template for everyone is impossible, foolish even. Does a goalkeeper need the same fitness traits as a corner forward, or a full back the same as a midfielder?  Can a fitness training session have the same effect for someone who is an office worker versus a retail shop worker, versus a teacher, versus a farmer versus a builder versus a nurse.   What each do during their working day is considerably different and preparation for a physical training session later that day will have different effects and benefits. The aim should be to get the best out of each individual and that will not be the same for everyone.

The key thing is to provide programs for the players. However, make sure at club level there are choices. Some may love the gym. Others might hate it. Some might be based in an apartment and the scope for exercise might be limited, so important to have non or minimum equipment programs as well.  At the end of the day it should not matter which program they do as long as they take the responsibility. The final element is Measurement. You must adopt a fitness test, generally a circuit based one and once a month, record the results, having set a standard at the beginning of the year.  You can introduce a level of competitiveness into it and challenge players to do better than their friend. However, you need to be careful, that it doesn’t dishearten anyone. Get the players to understand that when it comes to fitness, the main opponent is themselves and that’s the person they need to beat and better at each measurement session. That is when GAA becomes an individual sport.

It is always worth considering, female fitness coaches for girls’ teams as they understand the female physiology a lot better than the male counterparts.  In addition, nutrition is a subset of fitness that is fully within the players’ control.  Similar for injury management.

SKILLS and drills are what most club coaches are into. Skills are very important but how important are drills? Adult players have been practising skills since they were very young and should always. The vast majority of skills can be practiced on your own.  The exceptions being tackling, blocking and hooking in hurling and Camogie. Skills are again the players responsibility. The coach cannot hold the hurl for you or kick the ball for you. So, coming to a field with your teammates and spending an enormous percentage of the session doing skills drills, most of which are just the same as circus acts is just an inefficient use of group time.  Under-12’s are good at handpassing a ball or striking the ball and running to the other side, when under no physical pressure. It’s trying to do it in a pressured situation with hurls and hands or even elbows flying around you is the challenge.  That’s why group sessions are about putting those skills you have practiced into action in a practical games-based situation.

It is worth noting that hooking is a skill which is difficult to provide a drill for and it is difficult to do on you own. Yet it was that skill that the legendary JJ Delaney is most remembered for when he hooked Seamie Callanan in an All-Ireland Final. That skill ability could only have been perfected in a match situation, not running across a field trying to tip your partners awkward swing at an imaginary ball.  Yes, he may have started off like that but perfection did not come by just doing that circus act drill.

Like fitness, Measurement is very important and there should be a monthly skills test where again the most important opponent is the player themselves. The test should include at least a half dozen of the basic skills. This is where skills coaches come in, identify areas for improvement and set targets for the individual to improve, assisting where necessary. Always be available to the player.

MENTAL preparation and development is the final phase and becoming more and more important as teams level up on fitness and skills.  This is a huge area and too vast for this article, but this is where the inches are gained in the modern game.  This is an area that Brian Cody excels in without any real formal training. It also covers explaining what you require from your players as a team, so that they all understand they are singing off the same hymn sheet. This is better done in a classroom or workshop session, sometimes replacing your practical session. Often nice to do when the forecast is dire and you don’t want to torture your players (beware of making them too soft). Whether you call it a Classroom session, workshop or whatever, never call it a meeting. Players hate “Player Meetings”.  Most of them switch off before they get there regardless of what the content is.  They come to play the game but remember they have to learn the game too and the style of play the team requires.  All apprentices do “Classroom” or theory sessions. The craft of hurling, football or Camogie is no different.

TEAM SELECTION is like putting a jigsaw together.  GAA is all about opinion, that’s what makes it so entertaining and allows everyone to be an “expert” but a successful management team will use facts above opinion. Following the guidelines above, each individual player could be considered a piece of the jigsaw.  Each is unique with their own qualities. Each one shaped to perfection and the picture is only complete when every piece is in the right place.  In other words, every piece is important.  The end result can be a beautiful picture and the source of much pride and satisfaction.

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FIRST DECADE

I am delighted to announce the completion and publication on this website of my third history/factual book, FIRST DECADE – PILTOWN LADIES GAELIC FOOTBALL. It is about the first decade of Piltown Ladies Gaelic Football Club (Established 2010) recording the club history in words, pictures and with a lot of interesting statistics.  It has been a labour of love and passion assembled during the COVID-19 lockdown but compiled over a period of ten years when I was and still am the club PRO.

Feel free to read, download, share. It is available online at the following link to read or download [Click Link]; FIRST DECADE – PILTOWN LADIES GAELIC FOOTBALL

If you enjoy it, there is no obligation but if you could possibly make a donation of any amount to Piltown Ladies Gaelic Football Club. Whatever you think, it would be much appreciated buy those in the club. The club will need funds when the games return to get back up and running with several fundraising options now gone and a lot of competition from other local organisations for limited funds.  You can donate through PayPal (Details Below). ALL proceeds will go directly to the club and will be used to fund the club for the foreseeable future.  Thanks in advance for your generosity.

With PayPal, you can send money or make a payment to anyone with an email address or mobile number.

From your computer, here’s how to send money:

  1. Click Send & Request at the top of the page.
  2. Enter the recipient’s name, PayPal username, email address (piltownlgfc@gmail.com) or mobile number and click Next.
  3. Enter the amount, choose the currency, add a note (if you wish) and click Continue.
  4. Select “Sending to a friend.”
  5. Select how you want to pay and click Next.
  6. Review the information and click Send Payment Now.

TIME MANAGEMENT

TIME… There is only so much of it OR there is so much of it …

When you are involved in clubs, organisations or teams you are always looking to get people involved, volunteers, spread the workload so to speak. Many people use the excuse “I wouldn’t have the time” to avoid taking on a job or a role. If there is one thing COVID-19 has taught us, it is that there is plenty of time and people should more than appreciate filling that time in the future.

It is really down to understanding, time and what you do with your available time. When you put your time down on paper you will really wonder what you do with your time. The numbers are important. Time is precious, there is plenty of it but use it wisely and productively in work, rest and play. 

Have a look at my little video show from a coaching workshop I’m designing which shows players or anyone for that matter how much time they can actually put into practicing per week or into their hobbies in general while still doing the necessities and having a good time. 

Please feel free to comment your thoughts if you think I have left anything out or if times are unfair.

Best watched in full screen with sound

 

ADULT CLUB COACHING SESSIONS – PART 1

Coaching GAA is infinite learning process. Be it hurling, football or Camogie, like the top players, the top coaches or managers are always striving for perfection. Having coached and managed in all codes, club and county at all levels over the years, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that things are entirely different now to be successful as compared to even a decade ago. Everyone is looking for that little edge. That slight advantage that will tilt the balance of success in favour of their team. In this first GAA coaching blog, I open up for discussion what has evolved over the last four decades in club coaching with a key focus on what I believe in principle are the ingredients of a good adult club “training” session.

Back In the seventies, a typical club training session consisted of lads hitting the ball (often just A ball) to each other until everyone was ready. Then two lads would pick teams for a match or something unscientific like throw the hurl’s in and randomly divide, often ending up with two crazy uneven teams. Play continued until lads got tired of it and then headed to the pub if it was open.  If fitness was required, a few laps of the field. The more fitness needed, the more laps. It was rare that science was used. Over the years the concept of drills, drills with cones, drills with more cones, warm ups and warm downs, stretching exercises, core stability building and nutrition added to the evolving science of the club training session. Science and now mental preparation are the main advantages pursued.  The better you are at these the better your chances of success.

Now the majority of club players who are serious about their sport put in the time and they have to if they want to be part of a successful team. Each individual is an important cog in a team and indeed a squad as the more lads pushing hard in the squad, the greater the encouragement from within. They practice the skills on their own. They go to the gym or do their own fitness training. They take care of their own nutrition.  The top players even at club level are way more educated on what is required than their predecessors.  Therefore, as a coach or manager you have to decide how best to make use of the short time you have with the players. And it is short. At best you will do two training sessions a week of about 90 minutes. When you take out the mandatory warm up and cool down, that leaves at best, 2 hours per week or 1% of the week to work with the players themselves as a group. Very little when you consider it is a team sport. So as coach/manager you have to use that time efficiently for the greatest gain of the team in a competitive sport.  That means trusting your players to do the individual work themselves. That is the culture than underpins success.

The themes of Team, Enjoyment and Competitive are key. Those 2 hours must be about the team, must be competitive and must be enjoyable. It is their hobby too. Therefore, there is little or no room for the circus act of cone to cone drills in group sessions for adults. Anyone could take part in these, even me!  They are adults and need to be treated as such.  Surely they all know how to rise the ball, catch it and strike it, etc. at this stage.  If you are still teaching adults the basics, you are in real big trouble. The level of how good depends on their own commitment to their own practice and each will be different so a general drill rarely helps the majority of players. You would be lucky if 2 or 3 gain from any single general drill.

The focus of the group session must be about how the team works together, the game plans (note plural), understanding what their team mate can do. Becoming aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their team mates so that together they can perform to the optimum level.  There must be enjoyment and people play the sport which they enjoy and GAA sport is in the form of team matches.  So matches must play a huge part in the group session.  Those matches should be competitive. There must be a score, a result and an aim to win. There must be an incentive to win for the individual match and for the overall. This is where Training Leagues play their part.

These are the components that make the session competitive. That’s what makes your team competitive. That’s what will bring the intensity to your training session which becomes the sandbox for your match day performances.

As an example, your 90 minute session for hurling could be something like this.

  • 20 minute warm up incorporating all the main ball skills and dynamic stretching.
  • 20 minute team play development (tactics) which covers things such as puck out strategy and includes physical replication.
  • 40 minute match – Vary teams, score matters, league points allocated.
  • 10 Minute cool down

That’s an example in its simplicity though each component does require a level of detail and planning and should not be over repetitive. The challenge is to make sure the match incorporates the team play development in practical terms. Even adults look forward to the training match. Imagine the enthusiasm of the players to turn up if they knew every session would have 50% match and that match would be competitive and matter.

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” Babe Ruth

In general what you are doing is combining the individual skills learned by each player in their juvenile development years into more powerful concoction as a group. Putting the pieces of the jigsaw in the right places and making them perform together and better. Together Everyone Achieves More! This is just an overview at a high level but hopefully, you get the gist and understand the concept. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or just to make a comment.

 

 

 

 

 

ENDS AFTER SWEET SIXTEEN

Juvenile GAA ended for the three lads (Jennifer, Jamie & Lisa) on Sunday (13th January 2019) at John Locke Park when Lisa played in the2018 Minor Roinn A Camogie Final against Young Irelands of Gowran. It ended 16 years of juvenile GAA for our family which started when Jennifer attended her first club coaching session on Wednesday 5th February 2003 in Piltown, indoor hurling. It was a disappointing end with Piltown going down to Young Irelands but having said that there have been so many good and even great days for us as a family. Ending with a Roinn A final is more than fitting to sixteen brilliant years of sport, recreation and enjoyment.

It was 16 years of huge enjoyment for all of us. For the lads the GAA team sports allowed them the opportunity to meet friends for life and to develop positively as people. It allowed them to develop their physical skills and gave them regular participation in healthy exercise. It developed their confidence and taught them leadership skills and how to work well with others in a team scenario. It made them better communicators and taught them the importance of respect and discipline. It also helped them understand organisation and time management. So many of life skills harvested in a mostly enjoyable atmosphere. All this before I mention the huge enjoyment of the successes they have achieved in the games at club, school and county level. In fact, the Norris “children” have more winners’ medals in Piltown across All the Juvenile GAA codes than other family in Piltown (Listed at the end of this blog, just the winners and excluding tournaments). In summary, 5 All-Irelands, 6 Leinster, 7 Munster, 14 Kilkenny Championships, 3 Kilkenny Leagues, 2 Kilkenny Shields and 1 Tipperary Championship! In 2016, all three captained victorious teams across three different codes. I say this with huge pride in what they have achieved.

For Sheila and me, it has brought huge enjoyment and pride to us both. For us, it gave us a social life, gave us plenty of friends around the county and far beyond. By actively being involved ourselves in coaching and administration including setting up the first Ladies Gaelic Football club in Piltown, it gave us plenty of challenges but we felt part of something really special. Sheila has gone all the way to being the top Camogie administrator in Kilkenny by taking the role of County Chairperson. I believe she is one of the best GAA administrators in the country let alone the county. I have coached across all codes at both club and county level and notched a couple of All-Irelands along the way as well as getting to work with some of the legends of GAA. I believe my coaching and management ability has grown significantly over the years and has been helped no end by having first hand interaction with the lads in the challenges and opportunities they faced along the rocky road. Both Sheila and I have had success in our own right and that is important for us as people.

We always loved the GAA, but knew very early that we could not force our interests on the three lads. They had to grow to love and enjoy the games in their way. We did take the approach of strong encouragement, even when things go against you. However, the best encouragement was to lead by example and take on the roles that we have done with enthusiasm, vigour and originality. That way, we could be part of their social recreation and they ours. It didn’t mean that we always had to train them, but it did mean we always had to support them. But like every parent we were the initial coaches, something we both did in our own way and using our own skills, physical and mental. I’d like to say they got their GAA skills from me, but the truth is they all worked hard to develop their own skills which far outweighed that which I achieved as a player. However, I do think I have influenced their thinking and mental approach. We do take huge pride in their achievements to date. We do hope they continue to play for many more years and when the playing stops that they consider options in coaching, administration or officiating. Jennifer has already become the National Secretary of the CCAO (the body responsible for 3rd Level Camogie including the Ashbourne Cup). I believe there is so much more enjoyment for us as a family to have.

I hope this blog may be inspiration for other parents who might have dreams and ambitions for their kids but like us wanted the kids to develop their own dreams and ambitions and are worried how to achieve and encourage it. Yes, it does involve hard work, lots of time, but the rewards and enjoyment are fantastic and limitless. The proof is in the pudding after a sweet sixteen years.

LIST OF HONOURS WON BY JJL

CAMOGIE
All-Ireland Minor Championship (Kilkenny 2013)
All-Ireland Under-14 Community Games Bronze (Piltown 2009)
Leinster Minor Championship (Kilkenny 2012)
Leinster Under-14 Community Games (Piltown 2009)
Munster Senior Colleges C League (Scoil Mhuire 2013)
Kilkenny Minor Roinn B Championship (Piltown 2012)
Kilkenny Minor Roinn C Championship (Piltown 2011)
Kilkenny Minor Roinn A League (Piltown 2015/2018)
Kilkenny Under-16 Roinn B Championship (Piltown 2011)
Kilkenny Under-16 Roinn A League (Piltown 2013)
Kilkenny Under-14 Féile Na nGael (Piltown 2012)
Kilkenny Under-14 Roinn B Championship (Piltown 2009)
Kilkenny Under-14 Roinn A Shield (Piltown 2013)
Kilkenny Under-14 Community Games (Piltown 2009)
Kilkenny Primary Schools Roinn A (Piltown 2010)

HURLING
All-Ireland Under-17 (Eugene Carey) Plate (Kilkenny 2015)
Leinster Under-15 Shield (Kilkenny 2013)
Munster Senior Colleges D Championship (Carrick CBS 2013)
Kilkenny Under-16 Roinn B Championship (Piltown 2013)
Kilkenny South Under-13 Championship Roinn B (Piltown 2011)
Tipperary Post Primary Schools Under-17 “B” (Carrick CBS 2015)

GAELIC FOOTBALL
Kilkenny Under-16 Roinn B Championship (Piltown 2012)
Kilkenny Under-14 Roinn B Championship (Piltown 2012)
Kilkenny Under-14 Roinn C Championship (Piltown 2010)

LADIES GAELIC FOOTBALL
All-Ireland Senior Colleges Roinn A (Scoil Mhuire 2016)
All-Ireland Junior Colleges Roinn C (Scoil Mhuire 2014)
Leinster Under-16 Roinn C (Kilkenny 2011)
Leinster Under-16 Roinn C Shield (Kilkenny 2010)
Leinster Under-14 Blitz Division 3 (Kilkenny 2009)
Munster Senior Colleges Roinn A (Scoil Mhuire 2016)
Munster Senior Colleges Roinn B (Scoil Mhuire 2014)
Munster Senior Colleges Roinn C (Scoil Mhuire 2013)
Munster Junior Colleges Roinn C (Scoil Mhuire 2014)
Munster Junior Colleges Roinn D (Scoil Mhuire 2012)
Kilkenny Under-16 Blitz Shield (Piltown 2010)
Kilkenny Primary Schools Roinn B (Piltown 2008)
Kilkenny Under-16 Roinn B (Piltown 2016)
Kilkenny Under-14 Roinn B (Piltown 2014)

MY HEART BELONGS TO PILTOWN

This month’s blog is the story behind my song lyrics “My Heart Belongs to Piltown”, motivated by some recent traction on social media.  Coincidentally, the story crosses both my writing and sporting interests.

The idea came for a Piltown song came about in 2005. I had dabbled in song lyrics for a few years in conjunction with my brother-in-law; US based singer/songwriter, Enda Keegan. He put my words to music based on my mood direction. In fairness Enda indulged me and my madcap ideas. The truth is I am devoid of a musical note and skill. On the other hand Enda is a superb singer and musician. I consider myself a wordsmith but I’ll leave it to others to judge if the same adjective fits. In the nineties, I entered songs in the National Song Contest with the dream of one of them representing Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest.  At that stage it was difficult to even enter the National Song Contest. You needed a promoter. Mine ended up being former Senator and radio broadcaster, Paschal Mooney. The nearest success we had was reaching the final of the Glinsk Song Contest in 1997. A contest won by Eurovision winner Paul Harrington previously. My song “Let’s Just Kiss” was performed by Maria Merry of Fiddown and Dermot Keyes of Portlaw and Munster Express fame. Evan Grace was involved in the backing track. We didn’t win, but it was an interesting experience. What I enjoyed was being in a recording studio putting together the demos.  These were done in the Poppy Hill Recording Studio in Eadestown near Naas in County Kildare. There was a pop star buzz to the whole professional studio process.

My children were born between 1995 and 2000. In sport, I was still playing soccer for Piltown as well as five-a-side in Waterford, but by the mid noughties, the toll of over thirty years of playing sport had severely taken its toll on my body. My hips were well and truly worn, eventually leading to two total hip replacements, one in 2011 and one in 2012. The idea of playing, though still the ultimate, was becoming less practical. In late March 2003, I was visiting Jim Norris (A neighbour at the time on the Rathmore Road, Fiddown and who was chairman of the Rathmore Road Residents Group, A small group that worked tirelessly at the time to improve safety on the Piltown/Fiddown Bypass). His wife Jackie was involved with Piltown Camogie Club and she asked me would I get involved in coaching the young girls on a Sunday morning seeing as Jennifer was reaching that age.  (I had previously managed Piltown Junior Camogie team back in the late eighties for a year). As I said in previous blogs, coaching and team management was something I really loved.  I jumped at the opportunity and arrived the following Sunday morning at the Piltown GAA field.  Fate works in strange ways. In my enthusiasm I had arrived a week too early. While I was standing around the car park, I met Liam Ryan, now my neighbour in Jamestown. Liam asked would I give a hand with the boys while I was there who had started back. What else would you do? So began, almost accidentally a period of 10 years coaching Piltown boys in Hurling and Gaelic Football. In 2006, Jim Norris invited me to get involved in Kilkenny Hurling Development Squads as well. Over a dozen years later and I am still involved and have added Gaelic Football to my Kilkenny resume since as well as being the only Kilkenny person to be involved in Tony Forristal and Sonny Walsh All-Ireland winning management teams.  I am very grateful to Jim, Jackie and Liam for the opportunities that they sowed the seeds for, over the last decade and a half.

In those early years involved in Piltown Juvenile GAA, Enda, on his trips home from New York, would do a concert in the GAA Complex to raise funds for the Juvenile Club. It was at one of these concerts, and again it was Jim Norris, who asked us to put together a Piltown Song. It may have been a passing request, that Jim and Enda soon forgot about but I started to think, the seed was sown. Wouldn’t it be great if Piltown had a song that could be sung at all Piltown GAA events? An inclusive song, as far as is possible. Something like the “Rose of Mooncoin”, but this time, a Piltown song. A song that could be sung after Piltown has won a county championship in celebration or even an All-Ireland title. A song that would become synonymous with Piltown, about Piltown and for the people of Piltown.  I was dreaming and dreams have no limit is my motto. I pictured Piltown winning an All-Ireland club title, with me as the manager and the song being played over the Croke Park PA being a song that I wrote the lyrics for. Thus was born the lyrics of “My Heart Belongs to Piltown”, the dream and the ambition.

It was a number of years before Enda actually added the music and the voice, but I think he did a fantastic job. Social media reaction would appear to confirm. We published the song originally on the old Piltown GAA website in 2010 while I was the website Administrator. In the summer of 2014, I went around Piltown capturing footage on my camcorder of many of the well-known landmarks and edited it to make the video which was posted on Youtube as part of a website for Piltown Girls Gaelic Sports.  I wanted to sell the beauty and the amenities that Piltown had to offer to the wider world. What struck me most was when I was recording footage from both Owning Hill and Corbally Hill, the shots of the Suir Valley on a beautiful summer’s day; what a beautiful area we live in! Almost heavenly and probably under appreciated by many. I would recommend to everyone, on one of those rare glorious summers’ days, to head to some of those vantage points, look, listen and feel.  Your worries will soak away.

When my role as Administrator of Piltown GAA website was ended prematurely, the marketing also ended.  However, when a door shuts, another always opens for those who seek it… “My Heart Belongs To Piltown”. It still does. Part of the dream is there, the other part is the ambition to lead the Piltown GAA teams to those great days. The ambition is there, the comprehensive plan is there, the supports are ready and waiting for the call to put together the best team of people possible to deliver the ambitious dream in a professional and inclusive manner because no one person can deliver it. To facilitate the fantastic players to be the best they can possibly be and enjoy the journey, because the journey is wonderful. The management team’s main qualification will be that their heart belongs to Piltown and their passion is Piltown, 24/7/365, not just the GAA but all of Piltown. Unfortunately, it looks like there is a long queue before I and my team of people get a shot having submitted my name for the team management roles over the last number of years and yet to get an interview or even an acknowledgement, but the ambition never fades. We are ready to deliver when the call comes and the Players want it.

And having said all that, the dream for the song although born in the GAA, should not just be a GAA song. Jim Norris came up with the idea and sowed the seeds. Enda Keegan delivered the music. I delivered the words, the direction and the dream is a work in progress but the Song should belong to all in Piltown, the parish, the other sports clubs and organisations, any club or any individual whose heart truly belongs to Piltown.

Click Here to check out my Song Lyrics, Music and Videos

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LEADERSHIP SEEDS

Last month, I wrote about how I became a writer. This month I will tell you how I got into coaching and team management. It started accidentally rather than by design. As a child, I loved team ball games, be it a sliotar (that is a hurling ball for visitors who don’t know), a Gaelic Football or a soccer ball. I just love the physical activity of striking a ball combined with the camaraderie of doing it with a group of friends or teammates.  I loved the competitive aspect of team games and the aim to be the best you can, though in hindsight, I never really fulfilled my potential as a player in any sport, but that is a story for another day.

When I went to Carrick-On-Suir Vocational School (the Tech), there was always an annual soccer league usually run by the teachers.  By the time I got to sixth year, as said last month, the number of boys was low. I was the only sixth year boy and there was one fifth year boy, Wayne McNamara, the school caretaker’s son who had very little interest in soccer or in any sport.  However, we became good friends that year and I grew his knowledge and ability in sport. None of the teachers took on the organising of the soccer league, so in a crazy moment, I volunteered to organise the soccer league, thus began my organising career, a trait which I now know to be essential for good team management.

I got together a number of lads who would be team captains. The better players from the older classes. Together we used consensus to grade all the players. Then one by one the captains would pick a player from the seedings with the sequence being alternated so everyone got a chance to pick the best player in the seeding group. It was like a modern-day World Cup draw. Interestingly, half my team ended up being first years. The other captains thought I had been over hard on myself to ensure the integrity of the team selections. Integrity is huge for me in sport. I on the other hand saw the positives of everyone I picked and knew it was my job as player manager to cover up any weaknesses they had and exploit their strengths.  For example, Wayne McNamara was on my team. Even though he was a fifth year, everyone knew he wasn’t into soccer. However, I knew he would never stop trying and he would keep getting in the way.  I encouraged him to get in everyone’s way and it turned out to be a good defensive ploy because I made sure my skilful lads who were first years kept out of his way.   A defender has to get in the way and a lot of his job is done. And I loved work rate. Still do. Getting in the way doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Anyway, we went unbeaten in this six-a-side league all the way to the final where we were to meet the “favourites”, although in my mind we were the favourites. Belief was and is a huge part of my managerial philosophy.  The final took place at the pitch at the back of The Tech on 4th June 1980. It was a tight tense game and it was nil all with 2 minutes to go.  Our young first years were finding it hard to break down the opposition due to their physical limitations. However, we were solid at the back. I was defending and Wayne was doing what I asked. If the ball did get past us, our goalie, Noel Mackey was a safe pair of hands. The three first years David Tobin, John Connolly and John “Speedy” Kavanagh worked hard. “Speedy” was the class player, while the other two were work horses and I loved that trait.  With that 2 minutes left, I wanted to win the game, so both myself and Wayne pushed forward. I took a shot, their goalie saved, the ball pretty much hit off Wayne on the rebound. 1-Nil to us!  Wayne was my first lesson in there can be a place for everyone in the team jigsaw, if your open your eyes and mind and find it. A minute later, with their defence opened up, “Speedy” added a second and sealed the school league.  His son Daryl Kavanagh went on the play League of Ireland. I like to think “Speedy” learned something from me that he passed on to Daryl.  It may have just been a mini school soccer league, but the thrill of outwitting the opposition was like a drug.  I had been a very shy child (A lot of people who only know me in adult life, may not believe that, but it is true). Sport had changed that. Sport gave me confidence and the chance of leadership and the mini league had boosted my confidence no end.

A few months later, a similar opportunity arose in GAA.  Windgap’s Minor Gaelic Footballers were invited to take part in one off 7-A-Side football match against Callan’s footballers as part of the Coolagh Pattern. Windgap’s footballers at that time were known as Lamogue which was my townland. The Callan footballers were known as Coolagh. We were obviously invited not just because we were neighbours but because Coolagh felt they could beat us at their Pattern which is really a Field Day. Who would blame them? Unfortunately, nobody in Windgap wanted to manage us. Who wants a minor football team that never trained? The subsequent events inspired my play “Rathmore” later.  Together with Paddy Walsh (he was later to win a National Hurling league medal with Kilkenny and an Under-21 All-Ireland and also play in the 1987 Senior Hurling Final against Galway), we set about getting 7 lads to play. We were like “The Magnificent Seven”, the odds were stacked against us. We got seven aces, lads we grew up with. We were ready, kind of. We had no ball of our own for the warm up. No water, no first aid and barely got the jerseys. I think only some of our parents supported us in Coolagh.  The seven were Sean Kelly, Eamonn Murray, Jimmy Purcell, Denis Foley, Simon Brophy, Paddy and myself who were joint Player Managers. I was also Captain and although Paddy was joint manager, I was effectively the leader. Paddy and myself were really like Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen! I arrived in Coolagh on the back of Paddy’s Honda 50, barely room for the plastic gear bag. Some team bus all the same. I cannot recollect how the other five lads got there.

Again, I looked at our strengths and although I didn’t get it fully right starting off, I was prepared to switch lads around to get the best from the team. We trailed 1-1 to a goal at half time. Simon Brophy got our goal. The partisan crowd were delighted to be leading at the break. We even heard men from Callan laughing that we had nobody managing us except ourselves. I had started myself as a forward, but I was not making any impression. I knew Paddy who had started at midfield was sharper in front of the goal whereas I could and would run forever at midfield. We switched.

Coolagh got another early goal at the start of the second half. I still believed we could win and the partisan crowd even more excited. As Seamus the player, I worked harder. As Seamus, the Manager and Captain, I shouted louder. There was nothing in mind and body that I was going to leave on that pitch. The move of Paddy to the forwards was beginning to tell, he was in outstanding form. He set up Simon Brophy for a second goal. We were a point down. With a minute to go I won a “dirty” ball at midfield, played a quick accurate pass to Paddy. He burst through the Coolagh cover and drilled the ball to that back of the net. The partisan crowd were stunned. Lamogue won 3-0 to 2-1. It was unbelievable, but true. I have the medal to this day and it is one of my most prized medals.  The addiction to team management and leadership was going from strength to strength. That was the 14th September 1980. In 1991, that became my wedding anniversary. Two great reasons to remember the past.

In 1982 and 1983, Myself and Paddy joined up with Eamonn “Grimes” Cronin to manage the Windgap Under-16 and Minor hurling teams to a period of success, although maybe slightly under achieving too. I was learning all the time about players and their strengths and how to utilise them as best we could. We lost the South Roinn C Minor final to Carrickshock in 1982 and then Kilmacow in 1983.  In between in 1983, we beat Conahy Shamrocks in the Minor Roinn C League Final 0-11 to 1-5.  It was Windgap’s first ever minor county title. Another historic victory.  Twenty-one and I had led a team to county success.

My peers recognised my leadership qualities, though others saw them as a threat. Club politics soon saw my management roles end for a number of years. From a playing point of view, it was a blessing in disguise and club politics is also a story for another day.  However, the shoots were growing and I was now a junkie who thrived on organising and leadership, A humble plaque from a mini school soccer league and a humble medal from a once off 7-a-Side Gaelic Football match had laid the foundation for later successes such as All-Ireland success with Kilkenny Under-14 hurlers in both the Tony Forristal and Sonny Walsh tournaments.  I have managed in Hurling, Gaelic Football and Ladies Football at inter county level, the only Kilkenny person to manage in three of the four team codes for Kilkenny. I have also managed in all plus Camogie at club level.

I love the challenge of outwitting the manager of the opposition. I love the challenge of getting all the pieces of the jigsaw in the right place. I love the mental analysis of my team’s performance versus that of the opposition. I love getting to know what makes a player tick, finding their strengths and their weaknesses, looking for opportunities and reducing the threats. I love the planning and organising. I love the fruits of success. In the words of John Quincy Adams” If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”. The last chapter is not written in this story yet, by a long shot.