And former Kerry boss and provincial games manager Pat O’Shea is confident they have recruited the “best people” from across the province for the roles as the council brings its annual coaching spend in the region to €1.7m.
In Clare (John Enright, Peter Casey and Ronan Keane), Kerry (Maurice Leahy, Vince Cooper, Jason Foley, Mike Quirke, Tadhg Kenneally — yes, that Mike Quirke and that Tadhg Kenneally), Cork (Martin Coleman, Paudie Kissane, Paudie O’Brien, Kevin O’Donovan and Brian Murphy), Limerick (Ollie Coffey, Seán Herbert and James Ryan), Waterford (Michelle Power, John Quinn and David Robinson) and Tipperary (Johnny Cummins, Kevin Halley, Andy Ryan and Tadhg O’Connor). With John Griffin (South Kerry hurling) and Pat Culhane (Limerick city hurling) also in the mix, that makes a total of 25 GDAs, which, in addition to the six recently appointed County Games Development Managers — to whom the new 23 will be directly answerable — and the seven full-time development officers at third-level institutes and the six part-time officers at post-primary school level, means there is now an annual spend of €1.7m on Munster coaching.
Pat O’Shea is one of two provincial games managers (Waterford’s Joey Carton is the other), another full-time Munster Council employee, albeit in a more senior management position. He spoke at yesterday’s announcement at Mallow GAA complex, outlined the ambition behind the appointments: “From our point of view the most important thing was to facilitate the schools and the clubs of the province, and to do that we’ve tried to place some of our best people in various regions throughout the province, so they can give young people the opportunity to play our games from an early age.
“We’re trying to develop really good structures in the schools, both primary and secondary, and in the clubs, we see those as being integral to the whole development structure. Over the next year, every school and every club in the province will get a visit from our full-time staff, and programmes will be set in place.
“We’re not talking here just about coaching kids, however, we’re also talking about coaching the coaches. We’ll be looking at the club structures, looking at the school structures, looking at our fixtures programmes, looking at our elite players through the academy systems, looking at out talented players coming through in the various counties to see if they getting looked after properly — are they getting enough games, are those games appropriate to their age?
“Burnout will be given serious consideration but so will lack of games, which is a problem in many counties, or maybe teams getting enough fixtures but the programmes being badly laid out, games being played either too early or too late in the year. The ultimate aim is to improve both the participation levels and the standards of our games, hurling and football.”
O’Shea says five areas will be targeted. “We have five key areas: primary schools, post-primary schools, clubs and club development, coaching academies which facilitate both our schools of excellence and our development squads, and then the final area, coach education, our certification and coaching programme. A new national coaching programme has just been designed which is going to have different specialist areas involved in coach education where you can now qualify at four different levels, from the very young to adult.”
Passion and enthusiasm, a knowledge of the games, good communication skills were the qualities being sought in the new GDAs, and in James Ryan of Limerick — one of the county’s most consistent performers in what was a disappointing senior hurling championship campaign — they have discovered all of the above.
“I had just finished a four-year degree in WIT in Exercise & Health Studies,” James explains, “I only started four weeks ago and already I love it.” Much of what James and his fellow GDAs will be doing will revolve around coaching coaches, a critical element of the new programme, but must of it will also involved dealing with kids. No problem for the Garryspillane graduate, however: “I enjoy it. Rugby has become very popular in Limerick in recent years but hurling and football are still very much engrained in the sporting psyche in Limerick, they are still major sports. You can’t let it up to the teachers anymore, you go in there now and you see the amount of work they have to do already — they’re up to their eyeballs in work.”