Luke Dempsey developing drills for GAA's socially distanced return

Born a mile away from the Johnstownbridge GAA club in Kildare, the much-traveled Luke Dempsey is back where it all began for him, coaching the local senior team this year.
Luke Dempsey developing drills for GAA's socially distanced return

Luke Dempsey is hopeful the social distancing requirement of two metres between players might be reduced down to just one.
Luke Dempsey is hopeful the social distancing requirement of two metres between players might be reduced down to just one.

Born a mile away from the Johnstownbridge GAA club in Kildare, the much-traveled Luke Dempsey is back where it all began for him, coaching the local senior team this year.

We say coaching but, of course, there hasn't been much of that just yet for the former Westmeath, Carlow and Longford manager who took Mullingar side St Loman's to the brink of Leinster club success in late 2017.

Shortly after taking up the Johnstownbridge reins, the national health emergency intervened and it won't be until later this month, June 29th to be exact, that Dempsey finally gets his hands on his players.

Again, we must correct ourselves because with the two-metre rule in place, he won't actually get to touch or get up close to any of his players, not until July 20 when full contact training is finally permitted.

It's a lifeless ordinary right now for GAA coaches and managers like Dempsey who will have to dig deep into their repertoire of drills and plays to make non-contact training in some way meaningful.

Before explaining what he plans to do with his Johnstownbridge players in this period, Dempsey has a couple of things he'd like to get off his chest first about the GAA's return to play protocols.

"The biggest anomaly I feel is why the GAA didn't move in line with the government and allow groups of 15 to meet up, instead of only allowing 10," said Dempsey.

"What that did was it sent GAA clubs into a frenzy because all they're hearing now is that the club down the road has 14 or 15 players together out in the park, which is entirely legal. So you have 15 lads together up on the Hill of Tara or down in the Curragh or in the local school pitch or community pitch.

"And you have the rest of the clubs who aren't doing that wondering if they're missing a trick. I think the sensible thing would have been to open the pitches up before now and let groups of 15 work away together.

"It's a very GAA friendly number anyway, a squad of 30, two 15s. That's how I'd organise a lot of my own training coming into the Championship, where you can really get into your A and B stuff.

"I'd still hope it's not late for them to look at that and consider changing that figure from 10 to 15."

Dempsey is hopeful the social distancing requirement of two metres between players might be reduced down to just one also.

For now, all he can do is push on and work with the current protocol of dividing up his squad, of around 30, into groups of 10, with just two coaches per group.

"It will be drills and small-sided games that would be conducive to very little or no contact, that's what we'll be working on," said Dempsey. "In my own various drills and things that we work on in training normally, I'd have a good lot of pre-existing ones that I can basically align to the conditions.

So you can put a drill in place where one guy tracks another but there is obviously a gap between them. You can have your kicking and passing drills which will be quite easy to set up where that distance is between players and there's no contact.

"Shooting drills are the same, you can set those up so it's doable for sure but I would have felt the obvious thing was to go into groups of 15 on this."

Hugh Kenny, the former Wicklow boss who is now the county's GAA Games Manager, insists that sessions can still be meaningful in this new non-contact environment.

"Oh I think they definitely can be meaningful, and they will be, especially with some of the activities that we're designing for coaches," said Kenny, who explained that a return to play webinar will be going out next week through the Leinster Council to all coaches, setting out potential Covid friendly drills and sessions.

"It'll no doubt challenge the coaches as well, how they can adapt to the situation and get as much as possible out of those sessions. From a coaching point of view, they're definitely going to have to think more and think a little outside the box about how they go about things."

Like Dempsey, Kenny is hopeful that some of the restrictions might be eased by the 29th, to make things a little more workable.

As things stand, Kenny is concerned at how underage teams and particularly nursery groups can be expected to adhere to social distancing.

"The nursery situation is a different kettle of fish, four to six-year-olds," said Kenny. "Without telling clubs what to do, my feeling is that it would be no harm to start those groups back a bit later, when they've seen how it works with the older groups first."

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.