CARRIGALINE GAA Club had been planning to launch a coaching manual in March when Covid-19 restrictions were announced.
Obviously, such plans were shelved as on-field action was put on hold, but the club have done well to make lemonade from the lemons provided.
A core group, led by the club’s games development co-ordinator Brendan O’Driscoll, John Dineen, Richard O’Farrell, Shane Collins-Daly and Shane Weafer, has resolved to provide daily digital coaching sessions for underage players as everybody continues to adapt to the new reality.
So far, the reaction has been unanimously positive and the uptake has exceeded all expectations.
John Dineen, who is involved with the Carrigaline minor footballers, feels that the initiative has been a great success.
“I had never heard of Zoom until a month ago!” he laughs.
“A couple of the lads involved with the U14s came together to look at what could be done and it was broadened out a bit. I’m involved with the minor footballers, for instance.
“We said that we’d put it out to the ladies’ football and camogie sections too and it snowballed. Overall, we have about 400 kids signed up at every age from U11 up to minor, across the three clubs.
“The uptake has been brilliant. We send them out a skills challenge every day and I suppose a lot of clubs are doing that.
“As well as that, though, we have a guy called Colin Tuohy involved with the minor footballers since the start of the year on the strength and conditioning side of it, from an educational point of view as much as anything.
“He’s doing two half-hour Zoom classes every Tuesday night, one for the 13- to 15-year-olds and then one that’s a bit more advanced for the U16s and minors.
“It’s working away really well, he’s excellent and the feedback that we’re getting across the different age-groups and from parents is really good.
“We said we try to keep them engaged as best as we can and, rather than just sending out generic ‘Here’s a clip of so-and-so doing a skills challenge,’ we tried to put our own twist on it as well.”
There has been imagination shown, too, rather than just keeping a narrow focus. For the days that haven’t been conducive to outside work, the players are asked to explore the tactical side of the game.
“When the weather wasn’t great, we sent them a YouTube link to the Limerick-Cork All-Ireland hurling semi-final a couple of years ago,” Dineen says.
“There were a few framed questions for them to watch the match with their thinking caps on and come back to us with a few ideas of why something happened or it could have been done differently.
“Similarly, we’ll give them one of the good football games of recent years and ask them to look at that and come back with why they think what happened happened.
“One of the guys, Richard O’Farrell, is excellent. Anything he does, he does it right.
“The things are sent out to the kids in a Google form, they have the questions there and can type their answers, the link is embedded – it’s very easy for them and their parents to use.”
Ultimately, it’s about getting back to basics and making sure that they are contributing to a stronger team when they do finally return to action.
The players have been given a chance to develop skills and if they can do that then a potential negative will have been turned into a positive.
“The one thing we’ve said to them is that we’re keeping it quite basic but, if they can come out of these three or four months developing their weak hand for a handpass and weak foot for a kick-pass, that’ll be a success,” Dineen says.
“You don’t really get time for that, maybe five minutes in a training session, but now we’re in a situation where you have more time, everybody can find some patch of grass for a ball and go out with a parent or a sibling.
“This is a period of time that you might never get to yourself again.
“Even at senior level, the mount of fellas who can’t use their weak side is phenomenal – so here’s a chance that, by the end of the year, you could good at both sides.
“Wouldn’t that be time well spent?”