Anthony Daly fears hurling coaches are becoming obsessed with "gimmicks" such as strength and conditioning, dietary requirements and statistics.
The former Dublin and Clare manager believes the ability “to go out and win your own ball” remains the essence of hurling, warning underage coaches not to be sidetracked by gym or diet programmes.
Daly, the keynote speaker at Saturday’s Games Development Conference, stressed the importance of not allowing the “tail to wag the dog”, admitting to having lost sight of the game’s fundamentals when preparing Dublin for their 2012 Leinster semi-final against Kilkenny. Brian Cody’s men would inflict a 17-point hammering on his side.
“The essence of hurling is to go out to the ball, to go for every ball fearlessly. I call it the 90% v 10%,” he explained. The smaller percentage is your strength and conditioning, diet and stats. The other 90% is hurling. The 90% is how you improve your player.
“The biggest learning curve I ever had in relation to this was with Dublin in 2012. We had a great 2011, winning the league and running Tipperary close in the All-Ireland semi-final. In 2012, we trained at 6am in the morning, had a quick bite to eat and off to work. We would do a gym session the same night. We never trained harder in the six years. We were pathetic down in Portlaoise against Kilkenny. We forget that Tommy Walsh was going to put up his hand for every ball even though he mightn’t have ate what we ate. He mightn’t have trained at six in the morning, but when that sliotar was dropping he was in the 90% zone. I don’t think we should ever forget that. When the tail starts wagging the dog, we are in trouble.
“The game may have evolved, but the essence is still the same. If lads think drinking a certain drink before the game will help them or drinking a certain drink in a window of time after a game will help recovery so be it, but don’t ever forget the essence of this game — making yourself available, looking for the ball and being a team player. That is the 90%”
The two-time All-Ireland winning captain called on coaches to educate young players on the purity of the game and not be fuelled by a win-at-all-costs mentality. He encouraged management teams at all levels to seek expert advice, irrespective if their job for the year ahead is overseeing the local U8 team.
Realistically, if you can get the best out of your group and make sure they and you enjoy it, that’s the key.
“Once victory is attained it doesn’t matter how it was done so, a lot of people in the GAA think like that. I remember being in Cusack Park for a Clare match in 2013 and the people in the terraces were going crazy over the short passing. Short passing got Domhnall O’Donovan the sliotar 72 minutes into the drawn All-Ireland final. Was there a word about it afterwards? Not at all.
“Stick to what you believe as a coach. Don’t be hemmed in trying to copy a team who have won. In January of 1996 I heard a horror story of man from Newmarket who had run his U12s up the hill of Shannon on the 14th of January.”
He added: “You can always learn as a coach. Last Saturday I noticed the Galway seniors were heading out onto the pitch in UL just after we had finished up with the Limerick young lads. I watched Eugene Cloonan take the drills and I picked up one or two new things.”
Daly expressed bemusement as to the reluctance of GAA enthusiasts to get involved at club level due to “limited belief”.
“Let me tell you that every trainer makes mistakes. I am the king of making mistakes.Two and a half years ago I did something I shouldn’t have during a game (Daly clashed with Kilmaley coach Niall Romer during the 2012 county minor final).
“The right hand side of the brain completely ruled the brain for a split second and I can tell you if I could take the moment back when my three kids came home from school the following day asking me why was I on the front page of a national newspaper when 19 people were killed in a hurricane in New York I would have.
“I let down myself, my family, my club and the GAA and so that was a significant learning point for me.”
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