Kilkenny man Mark Rothwell comes from a very different school of hurling management than county boss Brian Cody.
Rothwell is in charge of the Erin’s Own Castlecomer Junior B side which is garnering plenty of social media attention for a charity calendar that’s now on sale.
But the quirky poses and pictures aren’t merely for effect.
Instead it reflects the work that Rothwell and the club have been doing in a bid to put some fun back into hurling at grassroots level.
Rothwell explained: “With hurling as serious as it is in Kilkenny, some players find themselves on the margins, struggling to meet the demands of training and get games at the various levels.
“We decided to put the emphasis on fun and giving an outlet to lads who wanted to play hurling but without a lot of the pressure that goes with it.
“So last year we started to get a lot of younger players involved with the Junior B team. We did different things to make it appealing and more interesting.
“For example, we set up a few away challenge matches and had some internal awards nights. The key thing was about creating fun and enjoyment and building togetherness.
“For lads playing at a serious level, you are talking about training three nights a week and then having a game at the weekend.
“That kind of commitment impacts on both your social life and your family life. And fair play to those players for giving that kind of commitment.
“But what about the guys giving that commitment and getting nothing back in terms of games?
“What we are offering is something different for those type of players. The key thing is for lads to play at a grade that they are happy with.
“For example, we had a 57-year-old and a 53-year-old playing with us last year. I’m 42 and still playing.
“It is all about getting out there, getting some exercise and having fun.”
Their novel approach soon began to reap rewards.
From struggling to put teams together, they now have close to 30 on the squad. Even their training sessions attract crowds of spectators.
“We had such a good response with good crowds coming to watch us training and matches that we decided to give something back.
“So one night a plan was hatched, in the pub, to produce a calendar. We got photographer Brenda Murtagh to take the pictures. We had plenty of good looking lads who were more than happy to pose for it.
“We printed a limited number and sales are excellent so far — and hopefully a few more will sell this week. The plan is to split all monies raised between ‘The Welly Race’ (a local charity) and the GAA club.”
Already one shot is generating plenty of comment on the club’s junior b Facebook page.
“My favourite in the calendar is the one with waterboy Brian Holland pouring Jameson into a bottle. That is getting great reaction around the place.”
So no drink ban in place for Rothwell’s men in 2016?
“Not at all, a lot of lads might have a pint after training — or before training if they think they can manage it.”
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