Priming goalkeepers becomes a number one priority for Cork who have fallen behind the leading counties

Alan Quirke, goalkeeper on the Cork All-Ireland winning team of 2010, is one of several experts passing on his knowledge and experience to budding custodians
Priming goalkeepers becomes a number one priority for Cork who have fallen behind the leading counties

Conor Counihan, Cork's project co-ordinator for football, recognised the need to start coaching goalkeepers from a young age in the city and county.

CORK are starting to catch up with the leading counties, when it comes to coaching goalkeepers.

The importance of the number 1 has grown significantly since Stephen Cluxton brought it to unchartered areas, notably with his kick-outs.

It was one of many fascinating aspects of the county board’s initial webinar during the week, the first of three entitled ‘development pathway for under-age keepers in Cork.’

Next week’s offering deals with technical aspects before rounding it all off on the pitch, when, of course, Covid allows.

Conor Counihan, project co-ordinator for football, outlined the main reasons for holding the on-line event.

“We’re recognising the importance of the role and also failing to put sufficient organised coaching in place for goalkeepers, he said at the outset.

“The large response to our webinar is indicative of the appetite for it and we’ve people from around the globe listening in.”

Of those registered, 40 per cent were players, and everyone was asked ‘does your team have a dedicated goalkeeping coach’? The answer of 75 per cent ‘no’ was also revealing in itself.

Among those leading the way is Ray O’Mahony from the Eire Og club who previously played for Dublin U21s and once saved two penalties from Meath’s Ollie Murphy. Still lost, mind you!

“We’ve done a lot of research into this and one key element jumped out at us which is the level of focus the position is getting in other counties at juvenile club level,” he said.

“Counties like Donegal, Monaghan, Tyrone, Dublin, Mayo and Kerry are the best in class, if you like.

“For example, for six weeks in 2019, the adult senior keeper coach in a club up country took all the keepers from U12 to U18 every Friday night and coaches were also invited to attend,” O’Mahony outlined.

He is just one of several passing on his knowledge and expertise to budding keepers in Cork development squads, under the guidance of Kevin O’Callaghan, the Games Manager.

Alan Quirke, the All-Ireland winning keeper from 2010, is also passing on his knowledge, as is Kevin Murphy, a former Cork senior custodian from Buttevant who is the county’s U20 goalkeeping coach.

Pat Prendergast, who kept goal for Cork juniors, Carbery and Bandon, is another while Briain Morgan, who captained Nemo Rangers to county glory, is the new Cork minor keeper coach.

Billy O’Connor from Cullen is one more who specialises in the area of improving keepers.

“There are many other coaches in Cork doing great work, people like Des McAuley, Pat Mackey, Ger Keeley, Mick Daly and Paddy O’Shea with the LGFA.

“There’s a perception out there that you have to be a goalkeeper to coach, but I think if you stick with us over the coming weeks that will change,” O’Mahony commented.

So, how has the position evolved in recent times? It usually started with a big man with a big kick-out, good hands, a good shot stopper, who may have lacked a bit of pace.

Gaelic football has changed and the goalkeeper’s role has altered, too, as O’Mahony outlined.

“If you look at the modern game, size seems less important and you certainly don’t have to be 6ft-4in to play there anymore.

“Athleticism and fitness are more important these days and you only have to look at the involvement of the goalkeeper coming out the pitch to appreciate this.

“Cluxton and Niall Morgan both play out field for their clubs, but in goal for Dublin and Tyrone respectively.

“Cluxton, at 39, is still the fittest in the Parnells team at the moment, a friend told me recently.”

The importance of having a variety of kick-out strategies cannot be stressed enough.

“If you’re one dimensional, pinging the ball 40 or 50 yards, you’re losing possession retention.

“Opponents will have their home work done on you before the game and then adapt during the game itself.

“There are times, when you may have to pick out a corner-back hugging the touchline and that takes a lot of confidence, though I’m not advocating short kick out at all.

Other topics included how to train a keeper not to be caught in no-man’s-land, and sound basics like good handling, overall skills, communication and presence, when commanding the six-yard box.

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