REPUBLIC of Ireland FAI U15 Schools and U16 international goalkeeping coach Scott Gaynor is impressed with the quality of goalkeepers emerging from leeside.
Gaynor is a former League of Ireland net-minder having come through the ranks at Athlone Town. Currently working as a secondary school teacher in English and History at Presentation Secondary School in Wexford, the FAI goalkeeping coach has built up plenty of experience and worked with numerous Irish underage setups.
“I am currently goalkeeping coach for the FAI U15 Girls Schools and U16 Women’s international squads,” Scott Gaynor told the Echo.
“The new Head of FAI Women’s football, Sue Ronan, was in charge of the U16s when I was involved last year. We produced some excellent performances including wins over Belgium and the Czech Republic. Prior to that, I was involved when Sharon Boyle was the U16 Head Coach where we played against hosts Sweden, Austria and Turkey in a UEFA Development tournament.
“Progress has been very good at U16 level when you consider we drew twice with Belgium back in 2018 before beating them 4-0 as part of last year’s UEFA Development tournament. We finished runners-up in that group which also included (an invited) USA as well. We lost (4-0) to the United States but played really well in a 4-1 win over the Czech Republic in our final outing.”
Gaynor has come across plenty of Cork natives and Cork-based players during his time with the Republic of Ireland. The former Athlone shot-stopper has been particularly impressed by the quality of goalkeeper emerging from Leeside and mentions Amanda Budden and Maria O’Sullivan’s progress to underline his point.
“Throughout my time working within the FAI, I have been fortunate to coach some superb players from Munster and especially Cork,” Gaynor said.
“I previously spent time working with the Irish home-based squads under Colin Bell when he was senior manager. Cork City Women’s Amanda Budden was one of the goalkeepers I coached during that spell. It is a fact that Cork have always managed to produce goalkeepers of high quality, be it Amanda or Eve Badana who was there for a few years as well.
“More recently, Maria O’Sullivan has come along, is making her way up the international ranks and doing extremely well with the current Republic of Ireland U19 squad too. Maria was a player I came across on a number of occasions whilst working with Wexford Youths in Women’s National League games against Cork City. I always found her an excellent goalkeeper to work with whenever I encountered her in the Irish home-based squad training sessions.
“Unfortunately, Maria is a bit unlucky in that Rachael Kelly (Shelbourne FC) is such a talented goalkeeper at the U19 level as well. I believe Maria would have played a lot more international games if she wasn’t competing with a similarly talented player in the same position.
"From speaking with the other FAI goalkeeping coaches, they all think very highly of Maria and Rachael. They are probably the two best young goalkeepers in the Women’s National League right now.
“Those players' success doesn’t surprise me one bit but it looks like Cork City Women’s FC is primed to continue producing top class keepers in the years ahead.”
The past few months have been difficult for players and coaches alike. Coming out of the Covid-19 lockdown, Scott Gaynor believes there is plenty of emerging talent to keep the Republic of Ireland at the forefront of international development level.
In recent months, The FAI U15 Girls Schools and U16 Women’s coach has been able to cast his eye over a number of outfield players hailing from Cork.
“In terms of outfield players, I have come across some equally talented individuals from Cork who are beginning to make their mark at underage level,” Gaynor admitted.
“Obviously, Heidi O’Sullivan and Jodie Griffin (Limerick) are two prime examples. During lockdown, with the Irish U15 setup, it has been very difficult but clubs are starting to welcome their players back and thankfully, training has resumed.
“Heidi will be looking to force her way on to next year’s U16 squad and there are meetings scheduled to discuss prospective panels over the next few weeks. She did very well at U15 level last year but unfortunately, they had their season cut short due to the coronavirus.”
Finally, when asked why goalkeeper was his position of choice, unsurprisingly, Scott Gaynor provides a passionate response encouraging all interested youngsters to don a pair of gloves and try goalkeeping out.
“Well, I’ve always loved playing in goal so I am going to say it is the best position!
“The goalkeeper’s position means you could be the difference between your team winning or losing a game. Yes, there is the added pressure of standing out more than others, especially if you make a mistake.
“The viewpoint you have of the whole pitch and how vocal you need to be throughout 90 minutes means more and more goalkeepers are starting to move into coaching and use those experiences.
“For me, there is no bigger buzz than making a big save in a game to help your team win a match. Enjoying diving around like a lunatic helps as well! I would encourage any young girl interested in goalkeeping to ‘get between the sticks’ and give it a go.”