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Barry Solan gets his big break

Barry’s big break

A strength and conditioning coach from Ballaghaderreen will be in action at both the European soccer championships and Olympic Games this summer

Rob Murphy

BARRY SOLAN is a busy man these days.
Last Wednesday night he was in the National stadium in Warsaw, working with the Polish national soccer team as they played Portugal in a friendly, and 72 hours later he was in Portlaoise helping the Laois senior footballers prepare for their National League game with Dublin.
Solan is a strength and conditioning coach from Ballaghaderreen, who also works as an associate lecturer in sports science at IT Tallaght in Dublin.
He is in so much demand that he is currently trying to incorporate training sessions with the Laois squad, Clontarf’s AIL rugby team, Poland ahead of Euro 2012, and Katie Taylor’s bid for Olympic glory. To name but a few.
It can’t be easy but Solan wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s doing something he loves.
A career that began with an honours degree in Sports Science at St Mary’s University College at Strawberry Hill in London in 2006 has blossomed over the past 12 months, and the former London inter-county footballer couldn’t be happier.
“I think my time in Arizona at the Athletes Performance Centre has played a huge role,” he told The Mayo News.
“It’s probably the leading training facility on the planet. It’s through them that I got the Polish job and while there I was working with athletes from the Argentinean rugby team as well as Ice Hockey and NFL stars.”
The Ballagh’ GAA player admits that a lot of what he does is ‘life management’, especially when it comes to the Gaelic games.
“The Laois lads are balancing work with sport and they are putting in as much effort and work as any professional athlete. It’s important to make sure they’re not doing too much. In a sense you’re trying to make sure they get the down days each week and creating a weekly schedule that’s all tied-in and balanced.”
Barry Solan’s schedule was hectic enough before the Polish national team position came on his radar. The link came from the aforementioned Athletes’ Performance link in Arizona; they handle international soccer squads and clubs, including Germany, Poland, Bayern Munich, Everton and Monaco.
“I’m an agent for Athletes’ Performance and they recommended me to the Polish FA,” he explained. “So I met the manager Franciszek Smuda and his coaching team in January and we did a bit of testing with the Polish-based players. It’s a great opportunity.
“They would have players based all over Europe, in Belgium, France, Germany, Turkey and England,” he added. “It will be mostly recovery and technical stuff on these weekends.”
Solan will work with the Poles through their pre-season friendlies and then, come May and June, he’ll be spending a lot of time with the squad, starting with a regeneration and recovery camp in Spain. Then it will be on to Austria for two and a half weeks where they will prepare for the European championships.
“My friends who worked with the German national team at the World Cup told me that there is nothing like being involved with the host nation in a tournament,” he smiled.
“It will be an incredible experience and Ireland being involved in the tournament merely adds to it. I’m really looking forward to it.”
THE second huge event on the world sporting calendar this year is the Olympic Games and, believe it or not, Barry Solan is involved there too.
He will be helping Irish boxer Katie Taylor with her bid to qualify in the next couple of months and then, hopefully, helping with preparations for London in the Autumn.
“I started working with Katie through her physiotherapist John Murphy,” explained Barry. “She was visiting him for treatment on some lower back pain, a common occurrence with boxers along with shoulder pain.
“I just got involved with the rehab side of things and it seemed to help a good bit so it just became a regular meeting from there. She trains at home in Bray and she visits John once or twice a week and we have our own session.”
Taylor is one of Irish sport’s brightest personalities and most popular athletes; her grounded philosophy sees her train and live at home in Bray, and seek out the best additional training around the country.
“Katie is brilliant to work with, easy-going and highly-motivated. Her dad, Peter, is a great coach and she’s just very keen to work every day we meet. She has training camp weeks regularly where we won’t meet and her focus right now is on preparing for the Olympic qualifiers.”
Barry Solan, meanwhile, is also counting down to the biggest summer of his sporting life. Remember the name.

Barry Solan

From Ballaghaderreen
Occupation Strength and Conditioning coach
Did you know? Barry won a Mayo SFC medal with Ballagh’ in 2008.