Developing footballers who can kickpass from both feet is vital for Cork GAA

Developing footballers who can kickpass from both feet is vital for Cork GAA
Damien Gore of Cork is one of the new wave of footballers who are adept at shooting and passing both left and right. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

THE number of old matches and scores watched through lockdown was ridiculous for almost everybody with an interest in sport.

County finals somehow rolled into Serie A goals from the early 1990s and yet some of us did it with more purpose than others.

Cork U20 coach Maurice Moore reckons he spent hundreds of hours trawling through games. Moore has put together a pile of video clips for Rebel Óg from old and not-so-old games, all for promotion of what Cork football at its best has been about and what it wants to be about again.

First up, kicking. One takeaway for Moore from the rewatches is that football hasn’t changed all that much for starters in the basics that are fundamental to successful play: fast kicking, accurate kicking with both feet, recognising space, making space to create the kick, pattern that repeat over time.

Carbery Rangers Denis McSweeney, Maurice Moore and Daragh Hayes were involved with the Cork U20s.
Carbery Rangers Denis McSweeney, Maurice Moore and Daragh Hayes were involved with the Cork U20s.

It’s an interesting line and it’s obvious that Cork are putting a big push on players being able to kick the ball well now, on developing that skill properly and focusing on that as a style of play.

Conor Counihan launched a promotion recently on kicking development, with an emphasis on the use of both feet, and is very much driving this initiative.

We spoke to Kevin Murray in CIT whose project of analysis on development squads saw a fairly notable gap in the use and ability to use the non-dominant leg when kicking the ball.

This is a group of people in Cork football who are engaged in improving Cork football at all levels and making kicking the ball a central theme is step one.

It’s a call to coaches to create the necessary environment where this skill can be properly utilised. There’s no point in just coaching the kickpass if the opportunities aren’t there to use it properly.

Moore is big on the idea that the movement generated by the players off the ball is more important than the player on the ball, that the player must be able to know where to make the run to receive a kickpass, that running close towards the man on the ball (an instinctive idea at times) doesn’t usually help create those angles for a player to open up defences with a kickpass of any distance.

The Cork U20s worked an awful lot on making sure those spaces were open in certain areas of the field to run into, that players would be able to run and receive a kickpass in danger zones.

One of the best inside-forwards for movement I’ve seen in Cork was Donncha O’Connor, always making that run to receive, and it’s hardly coincidence that he generally got more kickpasses into him when playing.

Paddy Kelly was probably the best kickpasser of a ball in the last 25 years (he had the movement too though, to receive, I remember watching him lose Tomás Ó Sé one time in Killarney to take a 50-yard sideline ball into his paws).

O’Connor will say he always moved when he saw Kelly get the ball; Kelly will say he always looked for O’Connor when he got it. Mark Collins and Brian Hurley would say the same thing.

One of the best link half-forwards I’ve seen was Alan Cronin of Nemo, always looking to make that diagonal run to get hit by players coming out of defence and then looking at move the ball with the foot as well.

Nemo link-man Alan Cronin.
Nemo link-man Alan Cronin.

The guy out the field can only give the kickpass if the right run is made into the spaces, so that when scanning he will see the best possible option outside close range.

The particular video on the website made by Moore focuses on scores by Cork players with both feet, with guys like Brian Hurley, Donncha O’Connor, Colm O’Neill, Paddy Kelly, Colin Corkery, going back to Paul McGrath in 1989.

There are other videos too. One example has Conor Corbett scoring points with both feet in last year’s All-Ireland minor final.

Two-footed kicking ability is being pushed. Moore mentions Joe Kavanagh as perceived as very left-footed but really well able (and willing to try) to pass with his right as well. Same as Mark Cronin with the U20s last year.

Damien Gore once got called aside by a coach at a Cork underage squad with a suggestion to maybe practise a bit more with his right foot; Gore pointed out he was actually right-footed but had decided to just use his left that evening at training.

That was very much personal motivation and the video clips are important motivation for players to show what sort of difference it can make to have that ability to kick with both feet well.

Coaches have a role with the use of words (not saying ‘weaker’ leg for example) being important.

Being able to execute the skill is one key part. As much as anything though this is trying to create a movement for coaches to think about how to set up a team that encourages and makes the most of kicking the ball. Stats show a club team might kick the ball on average 30 to 45 times a game in play, add to that kickouts, line balls, frees.

Inter-county would be slightly more, obviously. That gives a team plenty chance to work on where they want those kicks to go and how to move as a team to achieve that. Cork football is looking to move in that direction.

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