Cork GAA: Kicking off both feet is a key skill in any young footballer's arsenal

Cork GAA: Kicking off both feet is a key skill in any young footballer's arsenal
Brian Hurley is deadly on both sides thanks to the effort he made as a young footballer. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

THERE’S nothing sweeter for a forward than throwing a dummy solo off one side to commit the defender and then popping the ball over the bar off the other.

For Cork and Castlehaven, Brian Hurley is particularly deadly at it. One of the reasons is because he wrote to Seán Óg Ó hAilpín looking for advice as a youngster. A key tip the former Rebel captain gave him was to take three kicks on his weak side for each one on his stronger side when he was training on his own.

If a footballer can get into the groove of kicking left and right in the early days, he’ll be a more balanced player when he’s older, in any position. Think of how quickly playmakers like Pa Kelly (below), Mark Collins and Luke Connolly can switch the play and create width by passing either side comfortably.

Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

While GAA coaches place a big emphasis at underage level on being two-sided in hurling, the same focus isn’t as evident in football.

This has been identified as an area where significant gains can be made by former Cork player and manager Conor Counihan, the Co-Ordinator of Cork’s Five-Year Football Plan, in tandem with Games Manager Kevin O’Callaghan and the GDAs.

Cork underage coaches ran a Co-Op SuperStores sponsored kicking competition in 2019, where shooting from left and right was crucial. Depending on Covid restrictions, this will take place again later this year.

Over the past year, a study was conducted in conjunction with Kevin Murray, the former Cork hurler and successful coach with UCC’s Sigerson footballers and the Cork camogie team, at the Cork Institute of Technology using Development Squads to monitor players’ ability to kick with both feet. This re-enforced the view that usage of the non-dominant foot was limited.

Granted it’s easier to nurture this early on, but it can be improved at any level with enough work.

When people talk about the ‘natural’ skill level of Kerry natives, what we’re really acknowledging is the commitment their players and coaches have to develop the footballer first and the athlete second. Of course, our great rivals tackle like demons and are super fit, but also solo, kick and handpass with ease left and right.

Conor Counihan. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE
Conor Counihan. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE

Cork are promoting the initiative by:

1) Ensuring coaches and players fully understand the advantages of competency in kicking with both feet.

2) Video clips of Cork players over the years scoring with both feet.

This can be viewed on:

3) Highlights from last year’s All-Ireland minor final and interviews with players and manager Bobbie Dwyer. Which will be available on the above link from Monday.

4) Cork senior Cathail O’Mahony performing some of the skills and tests which are to be followed by Development Squad players, on the link from Monday week.

5) Running the Co-Op SuperStores kicking competition as soon as suitable dates become available.

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