Long Long Way From Kildare To Here

Country roads, take me home. . .

I decided this morning to get out the encyclopedia hibernia and check out where exactly Cavan and Kildare are. I have Seanie Johnston of Cavan/Kildare to thank for this.

Everyone will be familiar with this sorry tale, a story of utility bills, player revolt, allegations of poaching if not grooming, travel to work time etc etc. It gets stranger day by day.

It is not for us to pass judgement on whether Seanie Johnston is legitimately resident in Kildare and therefore entitled to play for the county he isn’t from or whether his new found affinity for the Lilywhites is merely him seeking a flag of convenience to further his career and maybe win some silverware.

The Congress threw him a curve ball by declaring players cannot represent their adopted county until they have played a club championship match.

This is a clumsy way of ensuring players are legitimately committing to a new club rather than hitching their cart to the nearest cause. The new rule is flawed because potentially a player could transfer lefitimately and miss the championship through injury thereby disqualifying themselves for a long period of time. The rule should perhaps include so additional alternative residential time period qualification.

In our club for years another stronger club had their eyes on a player whose father had played for the years back. They repeatedly tried to poach him but our committee to their credit stood firm. He had ben developed through our youth system and we had invested time and effort in his progression. We were then less successful than now but it sent out a strong signal.

Although it is not analagous to the Johnston affair, small and less successful counties will be wary of a larger team sniffing after their better players. Different indeed of a man moves to another town for work and is legitimately seeking a club to play for.

The ousting of Val Andrews by the Cavan players threw another curveball.

It remains to be seen what way this will pan out. I suppose at the heart if it is the GAA’s core belief that it is better to lose with a band of your brothers than win with a band of blow ins.




Torres Makes a Bullocks of Barca

Fernando Torres

Today I am in mourning at the defeat of Barcelona by Chelski. In truth I suspected they would lose.

A 1-0 away defeat is a tricky score to attack. Realistically had to have their eyes set on scoring three goals at home. They couldn’t legislate for Lionel Messi hitting the crossbar with a penalty to be fair, but there was always the high possibility the Londoners would score at least one. And so it came to pass.

But their ball retention game is tailor made for a team that can hit on the break. Both Chelsea goals were on the breakaway although I wouldn’t have back Torres to score even after he had rounded Valdes. I fully expected the bull turned bullocks to slip and fall on his arse such is his ineptitude in front of goal. His strike will have done his claims to get back in the Spanish side no harm at all. Let’s hope he plays against Ireland. Livestock on the pitch will remind the lads of back home.

Last night’s game once again highlighted Barcelona’s ineptitude in defence. I wasn’t surprised that Guardiola dropped Danny Alves for the game – for me he was a spare one on Saturday night and Pep was always going to choose Fabregas against Chelsea.

But the defensive set up really is poor – every time the oppsoition attacks they look like scoring. Isn’t ir ronic that if uyou put together the Barca defence and the Man United midfield you would have one seriously shite team? Yet the sum of both make them difficult to beat.

Guardiola, if he stays needs to force the powers that be at the Camp Nou to get him some defenders and quickly. Otherwise, he may as well leave before he gets pushed. Losing three games in a row at the wrong end of the season could have catastrophic consequences for him.

Anyone interested in reading in detail the mechanics behind the current Barcelona squad should read Graham Hunter’s excellent book Barca. It provides a great insight into the most attractive team in football. If you want an insight in Chelsea. Read the Sun.

The Tidy Square

Packie celebrates splattering another full forward in the square.

Following Congress earlier this month, the infamous Squareball rule has now bitten the dust.

What will the pundits talk about this summer? Well, goalkeepers getting flattened by inrushing burly full forwards will be the first talking point. Or full forwards getting flattened by outrushing burly goalkeepers.

Benny Tierney flagged this yesterday in the Irish News and I agree – I think teams will tactically deploy the big man two yeards further forward in the square as opposed to the edge of the square. Goalkeepers beware!

Your grandad and granny will remember Bert Trautmann the Man City Goalkeep who played in an FA Cup Final with a dislocated shoulder after an incoming forward bursted him.

In our club we used to play a form of Basketball invented by Philistines. This involved a sort of composite rules approach that allowed a version of  rugby tackle and the odd sly punch in the ribs or balls depending on who was involved.

The other feature was a big lad called Sean who stood under the basket, lurking with intent. He was an intimidating presence in there and caused mayhem. He would have relished the change in the Squareball ruling.

I expect more of the same from now on in gaelic games. For some reason in recent years the issue of the Squareball has become more and more contentious. Possibly in these days of retaining possession and working the score, teams are less likely to lump the ball in long. Therefore there were less Squareball decisions and more focus on them when they did happen.For some people the new rule hasn’t sunk in. At each of the last two club matches I have attended someone has shouted ‘Squareball!”

In years gone by the GAA revelled in the big man who kept a tidy square. This inevitably involved a ‘Thou Shalt Not Pass’ approach that combined no-nonsense defending with pure thuggery. All to protect the ‘keeper of course. Squareball offered a modicum of protection but with that gone, the keeper will have to be able to look after himself.

Enter Pascal McConnell the Tyrone netminder who has welcomed the change albeit cautiously. But then Packie has little to worry about, remember Gooch’s mysterious eye injury in the 2005 All Ireland when he dared to venture into Packie’s patch, dislodging a rogue ginger eyelash in the process that required some attention.

The pundits will have to find something else to moan about. But then that shouldn’t be too hard for the miserable hoors. Roll on the summer.

Cards Elevate Coaching to New Level

Ideal for Card Carrying Coaches
Many players can pass through their careers impervious to the drills inflicted on them by a succession of coaches.

Some have the spatial awareness of a Johan Cruyff, knowing instinctively where to run and when, even in the most complicated drill. Others are like a character in a Samuel Beckett novel. They don’t know where they are, much less why they are there; any request to move results in futile chaos.

Starting out as a coach can be an intimidating experience. Irrespective of how illustrious your playing career was, if at all.

The metamorphosis from player to coach is not always simple and seamless. Faced with a sack full of balls, a stack of cones and a group of enthusiastic adults or children, I’ve seen terror strike the most self-confident and enthusiastic gael. It needn’t always be thus.

Now, thanks to Elevate Sports Solutions, help is at hand in an easily usable deck of coaching cards that can help any coach run a well planned and effective session, whether they are a beginner or an experienced bainisteoir.

There are many courses now for coaches run by provincial councils, county boards, colleges and so on. Much more than there used to be. But still, learning for yourself how to run a session that is well planned and well executed can be daunting.

There is information out there on the Internet, the difficulty is knowing what to use and what not to use. Things like what equipment to use, how long to run drills for etc; who runs where and who ends up where. When you try to replicate in training what you have read or seen can be tricky.

Elevate have this fairly well cracked in this excellent product. The cards come in a robust package, well branded and designed. The pack includes 52 coaching cards, and a number of explanatory cards, slightly larger in size than the standard set of playing cards you’d see at the rear of any self respecting teambus. They are action packed with detail, user friendly and produced to a high standard.

Any coach from basic beginner to All Ireland winner can pluck the pack from their pocket for an instant training session.

Designer Donal Leahy was motivated to create his cards when after returning to gaelic football after an absence of years, he realised he had difficulty remembering what exactly he was supposed to be doing.

His idea, supported by an easily accessible and highly usable mobile phonie App for iPhone and Android devices provides a very valuable coaching resource for any standard of coach. I found myself engrossed in reading through the various drills and routines. Some were familiar, others less so. As someone who has been coaching for many years it is an immediate thumbs up to find new ideas.

The pack is handily colour coded into four suites covering passing, skills, defending and attacking.  Each card sets out how to run a specific drill. It includes a graphic illutsrating the ideal layout of players, marker coners, goals etc; the main coaching points to be emphasised (I’ll come back to this as it is a fundamental point of coaching in my opinion); the specific quipment required to run the drill or game, typically this includes the number of participants and also crucially, the number of footballs! Finally each card has suggestions on how to  change, condition and develop each drill if required.

The first question I posed to myself when I opened the cards is how exactly would I use these. For every session I am taking I plan out the session in fine detail so I have a printed sheet with me for reference  and timings etc.

Having the Coaching cards does not remove the need to plan a session in advance. It may be the case the the coach might bring say six or eight cards to training have planned the session in advance, able to use the cards to jog the memory.

If several coaches are involved, each having their own cards, each coach can literally work from the same sheet. It can help a group of coaches with a large squad split their charges into smaller groups, each working a specific routine. Whatever the choice there is sufficient flexibility for any number of quality sessions.

The cards themselves are reasonably robust but how they would stand up to a good soaking tucked into pocket remains to be seen. I have taken to inserting my coaching sheets into Poly Pockets to keep them dry during a session. There’s nothing worse than going to check your notes and pulling a clump of porridge from the jacket.

I would certainly not recommend turning up at a session, whippng out your cards for a game of dealer’s choice and running the session from there. The cards are very helpful in planning and executing a session, they are not a replacement for preparation. That is because some of the drills are very straightforward, others are advanced, requiring several reads through as instructions are very detailed. If they are read in advance, you will have at your fingertips everything you need to know on running a particular drill. This is not a criticism, it means the material is pitched at the right level.

As mentioned earlier, the specific coaching points are an invaluable addition. Sometimes you can watch fellas running a session and it is clear that they have borrowed the idea but don’t know the point of it. That means that they cannot correct weaknesses, bad technique or poor decision making.

I showed the cards round several friends. One is a ladies football coach just starting, She wanted them there and then. Another, a senior championship winning coach was highly impressed. A third, one of our underage coaches wanted to know where he could buy them.

The answer is go to www.elevatesports.co.uk/home/. The cards are priced £14.99. Initially coaches may recoil but in reality this is cheap. It is a the cost of a decent Sports book and it provides drills that will keep you going for a long while to come. You can opt for the phone App at the same price which has sime funky functionality. You can download a trial version yourself and get planning those sessions.

Elevate have raised the delivery of coaching resources to a new level with this innovative and handy coaching resource. I look forward to their next bright idea.