AS THE club championship is in full swing countrywide there are many clubs gearing up to challenge in both codes.
This can prove difficult as there are many factors, which can impact a club’s preparations and the subsequent chance of success.
This can include holidays, injuries, and fitness plus lead-in time to the next big game. These factors are then influenced by previous training completed, the ability of your panel, plus fixture planning at County Board level.
Considering the challenges facing dual clubs, you would have to admire the success of the Slaughtneil GAA club in Derry in recent years. A small club of no more than 300 homes they have achieved multiple honors in both hurling and Gaelic football at adult level since 2014.
The club has won four county senior football titles, three Ulster senior football titles, two Ulster hurling titles and they’re holders of the Derry senior hurling championship since 2013.
The club were fortunate during this period that they didn’t lose many players to travel, work, or emigration. Also, Gaelic games are at the heart of the community and the club doesn’t face competition from other sports.
It was certainly no fluke for the club after this sustained period of success. This success was built on a unity of purpose, great team spirit but also the recognition by the players of the previous work that went into their development from underage through to adult level. The players had a duty to prepare and play with the highest standards. It’s what the club expected and deserved.
This is something that can be under-appreciated, the work and time parents, teachers and club coaches contribute to a player’s development long before a player even reaches adult grade. Firstly creating a lifetime love of the game, along with displaying high standards of coaching and behavior, which lay deep foundations for future success.
When I was growing up there was no club nursery program from U6s, which is a commonplace now. The first age grade with the club was U12.
This was just the way it was 30 years ago so instead, the local primary school and its teachers had a huge role in a player’s initial development in Gaelic games. I remember with great memory going back to my primary school after winning the 2010 All-Ireland with Cork.
The school is still very important in a player’s development today. In Slaughtneil, a huge number of their players attended successful GAA school St Patrick’s in Maghera which exposed their players to a high level of Gaelic football and hurling.
The successful Slaughtneil team benefited from the right underage coaching structures at both club and school. This involved good people with the right skills to maximise the development of their young players.
Underage coaching programs are advancing all the time but you still question is the culture of constantly telling a player what to do still too common. Coaches seeking short-term success with their team, instead of long-term retention and learning and subsequent improvement come match day.
Slaughtneil were fortunate that injuries were kept to a minimum during those successful years at senior while also there were fresh faces coming through each year from the underage section. Nothing like the infusion of young talent to wipe away any wisp of complacency or to increase commitment with the older players.
The reduced injury list was no doubt a result of their player-centered model. When it came to planning their game and training schedule, the welfare of the player was to the foremost of their decision-making.
In the weekly training schedules, days were set aside for recovery and strength and conditioning. Both codes benefitted from this as the best players were available and they possessed a higher level of conditioning.
The hurling and football clubs were competing at senior and given equal status. If a hurling league or championship game was coming up then the hurling team got priority, and vice versa. The single code players still trained during this period focusing on fitness and individual performance.
The league structure is laid out well in advance so easy to plan for. The challenge is when dealing with championship fixtures. This is where a bit of luck is needed. Depending on your next opponent, are they a dual club and what level they play will determine the confirmation of the next round of the championship.
This is particularly a challenge in Cork when you might have a player involved with the county, senior division, one code at club county championship and once code at local divisional club championship.
You look at the situation facing dual players in Tipperary over the next few weeks. The club championship was put on hold as the Tipperary hurlers advanced to the All-Ireland final.
As a consequence, many players may be faced with both hurling and football championship games in the same week. Certainly, the players playing one code have an advantage here.
It is the exception these days for a club to thrive in both codes at adult level in the same year particularly if there is a big cross over of players. This requires good planning, common sense and a good bit of luck.
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