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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

GDPR – THE RIGHT TO REMEMBER

Some digression to a more debatable issue in this month’s blog.  GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU and EEA areas. It affects businesses, but it also affects voluntary organisations. Many businesses have the resources in terms of people and finances to cater for GDPR, but there is no way voluntary organisations have the resources.

The most worrying aspect is the “right to be forgotten” or the” right to erasure” which is included in GDPR. It provides that the data subject has the right to request erasure of personal data related to them on any one of a number of grounds, including noncompliance. From a voluntary organisation point of view, this means deleting all references to a person both hard and digitalised once they have finished with the organisation.  This is effectively erasing history.  This is a hornet’s nest!

For example when a player retires who has the unfortunate record of having played in and lost a dozen county finals, all of which he wants to forget.  Should he/she really have the right to have that information erased from the record books?  Or if a player holds the record for the most championship red cards, he/she can make the dubious record disappear after retirement.  In a hundred years’ time and if GDPR is implemented in full there will no such thing as history as governments, businesses, voluntary organisations, historical groups will all find they will have to clear their information and data due to the fear of non-compliance with GDPR and potential fines of up to a €20 million or up to 4% of the annual turnover. For a GAA club or county board or any sports or voluntary group, that 4% is huge.   

If GDPR existed in 1916, would we now know who the signatories of the Irish Republic Proclamation were?  Would any names exist on the World War 1 memorials in Kilkenny or Callan? If the ancient Egyptians had GDPR, would we be able learn as much from the Egyptian hieroglyphs?  If the hardcopy minutes of the initial meeting which founded the GAA in Hayes Hotel, Thurles in 1884 had to be destroyed or erased, would we now know who founded the GAA?   Would we know what players played in that first All-Ireland in 1887?  These are just a few examples of information that could and would have been erased if GDPR existed to satisfy the “right to erasure”.   What history will remain in another 100 years with GDPR?  Tracing family trees or biological parents will have to become non-existent. History will become obsolete if GDPR is a success.

GDPR was probably aimed at big social media and technology companies. Data protection was all that most people really wanted specifically bank accounts and medical information; let’s face it as long as nobody can get at our money!  The “right to protection” part of GDPR should have been enough.    Your email address and telephone number in a transient modern world is the modern equivalent of your home address. In the past people knew your home address in order to contact you, post a letter and send a bill. Now it is by phone or email or electronically.  This information does not need to be a secret.  Your email address and mobile contact number should be known. It is your contact identification.

Although, GDPR has yet to be challenged in the courts, many businesses and organisations wait with baited breath for the first high profile case. In my opinion, the “right to remember” and the “right to have memories”, should far outstrip the “right to be forgotten” or the” right to erasure”. If it doesn’t then mankind is on a slippery slope to erasing people’s memories. Is this really a road to go down?  No memories, no history, no records, no accuracy, no past! It is from the past we learn, so let’s not forget how much we learned from our predecessors on this earth who recorded information, data and pictures. Let’s remember then it is our responsibility to continue recording information for those in the future.  Let’s not erase or forget our human right to be remembered and our human right to have memories.  Nobody has the right to be forgotten even if they want to be forgotten. Nobody should be forgotten.  Forgotten is a lonely place when you are alive.  Let the memories and the right to be remembered triumph!

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)