Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice has drafted in leading basketball coach James Weldon to take on some coaching responsibilities with the Kingdom’s footballers in 2018.
The Killarney man (40) has coached at Superleague and international level and is a self-confessed anorak on the technical side of the game. He began his duties as Kerry returned to pre-season training last night.
Fitzmaurice has had discussions with Weldon previously but his appointment extends the growing influence basketball coaching is having on Gaelic football, particularly in the areas of movement, spatial awareness, screening and footwork. As an offensive instrument, it should also assist in the area of improved shot selection from forwards. Defensively, man-on-man and zone options are easily transferable.
Jason Sherlock and Mark Ingle have used their hoops expertise to telling effect with All-Ireland champions Dublin, while Roscommon coaches Liam MacHale and Kevin McStay are also strong advocates of the crossover from court to pitch.
This season Weldon has been coaching with Killarney club St. Paul's after previous successful stints with Limerick’s all-conquering UL Huskies. He has also coached Ireland at underage level.
Weldon’s appointment is part of a backroom shake-up by Fitzmaurice with Joe O’Connor coming in as S&C coach, assisted by former Spa and Kerry footballer, Niall O’Mahony. O’Connor lectures in physiology and performance training at IT Tralee and was formerly part of Davy Fitzgerald’s backroom teams with Waterford and Clare.
Weldon has travelled Europe, furthering his coaching education and in a 2013 interview with this newspaper, revealed how he had shadowed the Great Britain Olympics squad in London 2012.
“The coach Tom Maher has been at four Olympics (he was reputedly on £1m for coaching GB women) and before the Olympics, they agreed to give me access all areas. I was in on everything: team meetings, video analysis, how they were going to scout their opponents. It was a dream scenario.”
Kerry will not participate in the McGrath Cup in the new year. Among the squad which resumed training last night was double All-Ireland winning minor captain David Clifford — from Fossa, the same club as Weldon.
Meanwhile, midfielder David Moran is likely to miss the opening games of the Allianz Football League. The Strand Road man will return late to Kerry training, and it could be March before he is available for selection again.
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