CULLEN native DJ Collins has carved out a reputation as a great GAA coach in Limerick.
The GAA enthusiast has been preaching the GAA gospel in the Treaty county for a number of years. He has been coaching the UL team who participate in the O’Connor Cup, for the past 12 years.
He also looks after three other ladies’ football teams in UL and is involved with Na Piarsaigh senior football team.
He helps out with the Limerick GAA football academy, coaching their U15 team every weekend, and he is involved with Murroe Boher LGFA.
The Cork man loves his various roles and passing on his GAA knowledge. He has enjoyed huge success with all his teams thus far.
“The players are great,” he said. “Take the O’Connor Cup squad, you are more facilitating them than coaching them as they are all exceptionally talented young women who are so driven.
“Na Piarsaigh is a different challenge as it was the first time I have worked with a men’s team.
“As for the U15s, that is a chance to give back and work with some other really good coaches and learn from them,” he added.
DJ completed his third level studies in UL. It was during this time that he initially got involved in coaching.
He started off coaching rugby teams, before progressing to GAA.
“Initially it was through my PhD in UL. Part of my research involved how people learn new skills in sport,” he said.
“I got involved with the UL ladies’ rugby team. What I learnt from that team was no matter how good you were, you can always be better.
“The players just kept pushing each other and the management to get better.”
Through his work with the Limerick U15 football team, DJ has encountered his native Rebels on numerous occasions.
DJ is very impressed with the Rebels’ underage structures and the appointment of Aidan O’Connell as high performance manager.
“It is great to see the work being done by Rebel Óg and the underage teams,” he said.
“I was delighted with the U20 success last year. The appointment of Aidan O’Connell was a great move. Aidan has seen what is required to get players ready to move on from academy to senior with Munster rugby. I am sure that experience will be invaluable.
“The most important thing is for all the stakeholders to buy into the process that Aidan puts in place. I am sure it will be a success for Cork football.”
The suspension of sporting action in recent months due to the outbreak of Covid-19 has presented coaches with dilemmas, but DJ has maintained close communications with his players.
“For Na Piarsaigh I have introduced them to game scenario learning. I will write up a few possible scenarios from a game, for example there is 20 minutes gone in the first half, we have a player in the sin bin and up two points. What do we do?
“I will text the lads this query. They have two days to text me back.
“I will put all their answers together and send it back to the group. On Wednesday nights during our Zoom meeting, we talk through the scenarios and come up with solutions.
“I stay in touch with the O’Connor squad by texting them all individually. Just checking in to make sure that they are staying safe.”
DJ has encountered numerous Cork players during his tenure coaching the UL ladies’ football teams. He is full of praise for their dedication and winning mentality.
“In my very first year, Geraldine Flynn was in her final year. I would rate her as one of the best Cork footballers of all time,” he said.
“I have been lucky to coach Ashling Hutchings, Beulah McManus, Lisa Crowley, Shauna Kelly from Ballydesmond, and Julia White.
“The current UL squad would have current Cork players Eimear Scally, Aishling Kelleher, Caoimhe Moore, Aoife Hurley, and Chloe Collins.”
DJ teaches on both undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the PESS department, as well as designing and lecturing in a Gaelic Games module.
“All you have to do is look at the return of players after serious injuries. In the past an ACL injury was considered a career-ending injury,” he said.
“Now, with the advancement in medical and sports technology and correct rehab, players are making successful returns.
“Hopefully we can use the science to better monitor player loads and help reduce the chance of injury.”
The proud Cullen GAA club man has great memories of playing for the Duhallow divisional club.
In an ideal world he would love to one day coach Cullen or a Cork inter-county team, but he is loving life with all his teams at present.
“Cullen is our club, always has been and will be. I played underage all the way up to U21. I had great times with the club,” he said.
“Watching them win three Duhallow Junior A championships was great. I had brothers and cousins involved and my mam was secretary. It is a tight- knit community.
“Coaching a Cork team is always the ultimate goal. Who wouldn’t want to be climbing the steps of the Hogan on All-Ireland final day?
“Coaching Cullen and winning a divisional and county title would be class.
“Just a way of returning the joy the club gave me growing up."