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.

 

 

LOVE IN LOCKDOWN LIVE!!

I feel I should be shouting that title, like a commentator on Sky Sports before a match.   Love in Lockdown… Live!!!

Yes, it has been a while since I added to this blog, so with the live performance of Love in Lockdown which features my own play “Power Of Love” due to be performed at the Home Rule Club in Kilkenny from the 5th to the 7th May (8pm), what better time to throw a few words together and ask for your support.  The live performance has been a long time in the planning, but it is finally almost upon us.  Tickets are available at Eventbrite Love in Lockdown: LIVE Tickets, Thu 5 May 2022 at 20:00 | Eventbrite  Get your tickets early. You won’t be sorry. It will be one of four plays on the night.

The live version has a new director in Dubliner, Ger Blanch who has previously worked with Fishamble.  Paul McManus from Carlow Little Theatre reprises his role as Sammy. He is joined by another Carlow Little Theatre actor Michelle Phelan, both fresh from performances in Juno and The Paycock. Everyone is really buzzing and again huge thanks to Philip Hardy and Barnstorm Theatre Arts for the production. They have been amazing.

I would also like to thank KATS theatre group who recently did a reading of another of my plays called the “The Sub” at John Cleeres in Kilkenny as part of their Scriptease program.  The play is based around the other favourite pastime of my life, the GAA and tells the story of a match from the perspective of one of the substitutes.  Hopefully, this play too can be brought to life on the stage sometime down the road. Massive thanks to Delia Lowery, Hugh Keenan and all those involved in the reading from KATS.

With the lockdowns finished (for now at least) it’s really a busy time with the arts, the GAA and making sure I relax and enjoy the simple pleasures of life that I did enjoy during lockdowns.  Time has become challenging again, but I am determined to control as much as possible and take those breaks away to savour life and the world. I hope you are too.

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.

POWER OF LOVE

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Will lockdowns finally end? Everyone has tried to find ways to get through these challenging times.  I have returned to writing fiction in various forms and more comprehensively. The end product of one such project will be streamed live this Thursday 29th April at 7:30pm on Zoom.  (Details at the end of this blog)

I have been lucky that a short play of mine has been produced by the Kilkenny based Barnstorm Theatre Company.  The theme is “Love In Lockdown” and my play is called “Power of Love”.  It is a project that started in the latter quarter of 2020 and the approximately 15-minute duologue is part of ten similarly selected and diverse writings to be performed. The first five of which were streamed in March. They had originally been planned to be performed on St. Valentines week.  Unfortunately, restrictions played havoc with that plan.

Filming took place on Saturday and went very well considering all but one rehearsal took place over Zoom/Teams and it is a single camera to give a theatre feel. It’s a wonderful idea to bring theatre to people given that people cannot go to the theatre. So, if you are looking for something novel to pass the lockdown time, please use the link to the live streaming. It will also be available on the Barnstorm Theatre Company YouTube channel afterwards if you miss the live performance on Zoom. There are also plans to broadcast on radio and do live performances when restrictions lift. Hopefully you will enjoy it and I look forward to your reactions and reviews on here afterwards.

I would like to thank the Barnstorm Theatre Company for the opportunity. No script is complete until it has been interpreted in real life. It has been a very gratifying experience.  Special thanks to Philip Hardy, Cara Doherty and Maeve Ingoldsby for their invaluable advice and experience during the script writing phase. A lot has been learned.  I would like to thank Trish Brennan of the Barn Owl Players who directed it brilliantly and maintained the integrity of the story I was telling whilst also making it an entertaining piece of theatre.  Also, thanks to two brilliant Carlow based actors, Carrie Doran and Paul McManus who brought the characters to life with great understanding and enthusiasm whilst overcoming the challenges of the new way of doing things.

I am genuinely excited about this and look forward to audience reaction, good or bad. I describe it as a romantic comedy with a dark side, but it could be a dark comedy with a romantic side. It’s open to interpretation.  The story is about Ella and Sammy who are two Gardai based in Kilkenny that have history. However, time is running out for Ella and things need to be said. Their long-time attraction to each other has been blighted by obstacles and fears of social etiquette, loyalty and age difference. Dramatic and potentially catastrophic circumstances put them together in a situation where only the truth matters. Are they literally sitting on a timebomb that will destroy their lives forever or will there be enough time to connect?

Check out Barnstorm Facebook Page:

https://www.facebook.com/barnstormtheatrecompany/posts/405824590759224

Love in Lockdown 2
Time: Apr 29, 2021 07:30 PM Dublin
ZOOM LINK.
Meeting ID: 826 8839 0764
Passcode: 594503

 

BACK TO THE FUTURE MEMORIES

In 1994, Macra Na Feirme celebrated 50 years as an organisation. At that time, I was the County Kilkenny Anniversary committee Chairperson having been the PRO for the previous two years.  A number of events took place to commemorate the occasion including a gala dinner, a tree planting ceremony in Mooncoin Vocational School, the site of the first branch and a commemorative book, for which I was editor and which is available on this website HERE.  Another novel idea was a film/documentary called “Kilkenny Macra Na Feirme Back To The Future”.   This is now available on my YouTube Channel and can be accessed HERE through this website.

This was my first venture into filmmaking. Armed with a flexible plan and a great cameraman in the form of Pat Farrell, a member of the Ballyragget Macra branch with additional footage provided by Simon Kennedy of the Glenmore branch, we spent several months collecting footage, interviewing, scripting and editing. Basically, having fun.  The end result was 96 minutes of history, events, fun and sport which was released on VHS tape with the artwork provided by Teresa Blanchfield of the Freshford branch.  A time capsule of Macra activity in Kilkenny in 1994. It was intended as a Macra promotional video but with the benefit of hindsight, I could have left a lot more footage on the cutting room floor, but there are so many memories for so many in the historic documentary, it was difficult to cut, because we knew the timeless history and memories we were capturing would be priceless as the years go by.  Unforgettable memories that needed to be remembered.

I recall the final editing session at Pat Farrell’s house in Lisdowney. A full Saturday of enjoyable editing, camaraderie and making sure the final project came together while Pat’s wonderful mother, (RIP), ensured we were well fed and looked after with her incredible hospitality and no little patience. Our launch and premiere showing deadline of the 5th November 1994 at the Newpark Hotel was fast approaching.  I’ll not forget it as I was involved in a not too serious car crash on the way home from work that evening.  Thankfully, everything else went to plan.

Anyway, over the years I have made a number of DVD’s and even transferred the film from VHS to DVD.  Lately, the next generation of Norris’ have been getting on to me about preserving these DVD’s in the “cloud”. Well with yet another lockdown due to COVID-19 in progress and time needing to be occupied, here is the first one.  Hopefully, those who were in it will enjoy the nostalgia or maybe their children might see them in a different and more impressed light.  There is little in the difference of what entertains most young people after just over quarter of a century.

I joined Piltown Macra Na Feirme in 1987.  Initially just to play indoor soccer in Kilbarry, Waterford on a Saturday night. However, I quickly realised the incredible opportunities Macra had to offer despite being viewed as a farmer’s organisation. Although, I came from a farming background, I certainly did not see myself as a farmer. I mean, I was working in Dublin as a Business Analyst coming home at the weekends to play sport locally.  Macra offered, so much. Sport was the obvious attraction for me but through Macra, I got to improve my Public Speaking, winning a Gold award nationally. I was compere at national level in the final of the Make & Model competition, I was on the runner-up Kilkenny team in the All-Ireland quiz final, formerly known as Cross Country Quiz when broadcast on RTE.  I won the comedy section of talent competitions in Kilkenny. No joke! The biggest opportunity came in the drama competition.  I got the amazing opportunity to write one-act plays which were performed by the Piltown branch and the Kilmacow branch.  It started an outlet for my love of writing and telling stories. The seed of the material available on this website. Sheila won several Best Actress awards while I won both Best Director and Best Actor awards. However, I was always disappointed the plays themselves never managed to get over the line despite a few near misses. It goes back to the elation of a team winning. In this case a team of cast and production crew, far exceeds the elation of individual recognition, albeit it a massive honour.

Macra gave tremendous opportunities to travel, the highlight for me was a group trip to Orlando, Florida. However, the festival weekends were incredible craic. Miss Macra, Miss Blue Jeans, Batchelor of the Year and of course the national convention weekend featuring the final of the Make & Model final.  This is not to mention, the regular nights out at “discos” with a group of friends. My sports career did take a hit though.  Although I am not a drinker, often not getting home until the early hours just before daybreak or a weekend with little sleep at all, can devastate the body. Then having to help with jobs early in the morning at home on the farm including milking cows. Those 11am soccer matches on a Sunday morning were tough going at times. I literally fell asleep standing on my feet momentarily one morning while waiting for a throw-in to be taken and an injured player be treated.  Yes, believe me, it can happen. 

Above all, friendship was the biggest thing Macra had to offer.  Over 20 of Piltown members in the late 80’s, early 90’s ended up getting married to another member or a member from another club.  It was similar in many other Macra branches. This included myself and Sheila. We did not meet at Macra, but we got to know each other really well through the enjoyment of our shared interests.  Macra is not a dating agency. It is an organisation that gives the opportunity to share varied interests with like-minded people. This is the root of any friendship or relationship.  In these challenging times, it is worth remembering that and the value of friendship.  Twenty-seven years since the launch of the video, those friendships still exist.   Despite being a sports fanatic, especially GAA, some of my best friends are not sports fans and more are.   

I hope that people who were involved in Kilkenny Macra back in 1994, take the time to reminisce and remember the value of friendship Macra gave you. Take the opportunity to pass on that legacy, which although the interests may have moved on and modernised, the values are still the same. Please pass the word that “Kilkenny Macra Na Feirme Back To The Future” is now available online for all to enjoy. Please subscribe to my YouTube Channel. It’s free and costs just the click of a button and follow me on other social media options. 

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.

If you liked what you read

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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.

DELETION

Deletion – Definition; The removal or obliteration of written or printed matter, especially by drawing a line through it; The removal of data from a computer’s memory; The removal of a product, especially a recording, from the catalogue of those available for purchase.  What about the removal of mankind?

I have just published my latest short story. It is called DELETION. It is FICTION.  But could it be true?  Read it and find out! (Click Button below)

Are you getting comfortable with the current situation due to the COVID-19 virus?  Should it be a bigger concern, if people are?  Have you thought through the practicalities of living your own life if no vaccine, cure or treatment is found?  Is it possible?  Deletion on the face of it is a morbid look of what could happen, but the important message it tries to give it, stay hopeful, stay positive and never give up!

It is a bit like my writing career. I’m always hopeful that people will read my library, even though it doesn’t seem to happen. I’m hopeful, drama groups will want to produce and perform my plays. I’m hopeful, publishers will want to publish my novels or stories. I’m hopeful filmmakers will want to turn my stories into films. So, I never give up.  I still write even if I am the only one that reads it.  I believe in the stories.  I’m not worried about the fancy well-constructed sentences. To me, it’s all about the stories.

Meanwhile, on the technical front, I have updated the website to improve navigation. Around the LIBRARY Please feel free to check it out and use the CONTACT FORM to let me know what you think.

DELETION