Alan Quirke and Billy Morgan on board for new Cork GAA goalkeeping initiative

Conor Counihan is helping co-ordinate an online course aimed at coaching club number ones
Alan Quirke and Billy Morgan on board for new Cork GAA goalkeeping initiative

Former Cork footballer goalkeeper Alan Quirke takes a kick-out. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

CONOR Counihan provides a direct connection to the three best football goalkeepers to wear the Blood and Bandage jersey.

Billy Morgan was his manager and the late John Kerins the ultra-reliable netminder in the '80s and '90s. Alan Quirke was number one when Counihan guided Cork to Sam Maguire in 2010.

Counihan also served as a Cork selector during the period when Skibb's Kevin O'Dwyer was a quality goalie.

The Aghada club man is now Cork project co-ordinator for football and is involved in an initiative aimed at developing top-class goalkeepers for Cork clubs. 

Morgan and Quirke will be involved, as well as Ray O'Mahony, Kevin Murphy, Pat Prendergast and Billy O'Connor. Quite a line-up for the online workshop, which runs on Monday, March 15 and Monday, March 31. There will also be practical sessions on a regional basis when Covid restrictions ease.

Morgan was the Footballer of the Year between the posts in 1973 and Quirke noted for his ability to find his kick-out targets in the middle third. The position has evolved further in recent years.

Nemo's Billy Morgan and Brian Murphy clear the ball during a UCC attack in 1972.
Nemo's Billy Morgan and Brian Murphy clear the ball during a UCC attack in 1972.

"If you take it that there are an average of 23 kick-outs per game and that we've seen goalkeepers kicking long-range frees and 45s, and even coming outfield as 'sweeper keepers, creating overlaps, it's gone to a whole new level," explained Counihan.

"It's an area we haven't really addressed at all in Cork and something we have to start working on. This is aimed at any club people in Cork who have an interest in coaching goalkeepers. Ideally, in every club, you'd have someone working with the goalies in two age groups together. 

"If they played in goal themselves that's great but they don't have to have. If you look at the Ulster teams, and the likes of Tyrone's Niall Morgan, Raymond Galligan (Cavan) and Shaun Patton (Donegal), many keepers now will have a soccer background of some sorts and even play outfield with the clubs.

"It's a specialised position but at the same time, you need a brilliant footballer in the role too.

Possession is such a massive element of modern Gaelic football and in reality, saving shots isn't as important as it was. 

"Obviously, it can be the difference between winning and losing a game, but there's a lot more expected in the position now."

Valley Rovers' goalkeeper Alan Quirke has to deal with a stray dog as he kicks-out against Ballincollig in 2015. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Valley Rovers' goalkeeper Alan Quirke has to deal with a stray dog as he kicks-out against Ballincollig in 2015. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Counihan still coaches at club level with the Agahda minors and the aim of those involved in developing football mentors is to nurture the skills of the vast playing population on Leeside.

"We'd had an initiative to help coaches get their players to kick with both feet from a young age and the basics must always come first. 

It's grand setting up with a sweeper when you're over a Féile team but have you got the basics nailed down? That's what club coaches should ask themselves."

He feels the more club members who upskill on catering to goalkeepers, the higher the standard will be across the board.

"You're looking to supplement ordinary training and if a club has three or four across the grades helping to identify and develop goalkeepers they'll get a massive reward. 

"Kick-outs give you control in a match, you can't keep going long, you need variety and that takes huge work with a team but also only comes if you encourage keepers to take a certain amount of risks." 

You could apply that with all underage coaching really.

Former Cork manager Conor Counihan. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE
Former Cork manager Conor Counihan. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE

"It's not rocket science, you have to provide support for clubs in Cork to help their players and that raises the standard all through to Cork teams."

Webinar 1 on March 15, 8pm, will focus on:

· Evolution of the goalkeeper position as one of the most vital positions in any team today. 

· How we select goalkeepers from a young age and what talents and qualities we should be looking at. 

· Taking a longer-term view of the development pathway for young goalkeepers from age 11 to 18.

Webinar 2 on March 31, 8pm, will focus on:

· Kick-out techniques, skills and strategies. 

· Shot-stopping and footwork skills. 

· Handling and football skills. 

· Communication and mental skills.

You can register here

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