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Solan to head up Mayo Football Academy

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NEW ROLE  Michael Solan

Mike Finnerty

MAYO under 21 football manager Michael Solan will have responsibility for overseeing the county’s Senior Football Development Academy this year.
Mayo GAA Games Manager Billy McNicholas told The Mayo News last week that the Academy will come under Solan’s remit this year following a directive from the County Board at the end of last season.
McNicholas, who has been involved in the running of the Development Academy since its formation in October 2012, expects Solan to begin working with the players in the programme once Mayo’s interest in this year’s U-21 championship ends.
Meanwhile, former Mayo under 21 captain Adam Gallagher, who was among the first group of players invited into the programme, believes that the Academy has ‘worked to a certain extent’ in its first three years.
The initial aim of the Development Academy project was to provide a ‘progression path’ for players between the ages of 19 and 23 to graduate from the Mayo Minor squad to the U-21 ranks and through to the county Senior panel.
Gallagher was one of 21 young footballers that were handpicked for the novel initiative back in October 2012.
“The feedback from players would be mainly good,” the Mayo Gaels clubman told The Mayo News. “Overall, lads would have enjoyed it. It was something different.
“I would say it has worked to a certain extent, but I’d probably like to see more emphasis put on it.
“It needs to be made more attractive to players in terms of making sure they get to every session, every get-together.”
Its original aim four years ago was to work regularly with aspiring Mayo senior footballers in areas like specialised football coaching, strength and conditioning, nutrition, education, psychology and networking.
However, Billy McNicholas told The Mayo News last year that ‘limited contact time’ with the players had been a major stumbling block from day one.
Adam Gallagher agreed that this was still a big issue.
“When you’re part of the Mayo under 21 squad, you’re not really involved with the Academy for those five or six months,” he explained.
“It’s more for the players who have came out of Mayo minor and haven’t made the under 21 panel for the following year.
“To be honest, for my three years with the under 21s I wasn’t really involved with the Academy much at all. Their sessions were going on in the background.
“Maybe over the course of the summer, I might have got to three Academy sessions where we’d have covered things like stretching, S&C development, and done some pitch sessions.
“But we all have a lot going on with our clubs during the summer too, and it can be hard to get guys to commit to Academy sessions if they haven’t made the under 21s.
“The Academy lads would be involved in trial games with the under 21s alright, and that would probably be a highlight for a lot of fellas.
“The Academy reaches its high point when the U-21 season is in full swing, and that probably presents some challenges.”

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