JOINING FORCES Mayo GAA chairman Mike Connelly (left) has asked Liam Horan of Ballinrobe GAA club to head up a strategic committee to review Mayo GAA’s coaching structures. Pic: Michael Donnelly
FORMER Mayo players are to be recruited to become involved in county development squads, according to Mike Connelly.
“It’s something that we’ve never done,” the Mayo GAA Board chairman told a meeting in MacHale Park, Castlebar last week. “We’ve never gone out there and spoken to past county players and see if they’d get involved. I’ve spoken to a few of late, and I was amazed by the response that I did get, that they would like to get involved.”
The Hollymount/Carramore clubman revealed that he has asked former Mayo under-21 manager Martin Carney and Mayo senior team media co-ordinator Liam Horan to head up a strategic committee to look at coaching and development squads.
“We’ve had a number of meetings ourselves, and they have met with groups like our present coaches, and ... ourselves, and they will be meeting with probably past managers in the next couple of weeks, and a number of other groups, like Bord na nÓg, probably some members of clubs, and so on.”
Connelly said the committee would examine development squads and ‘what we’re currently doing’, looking at what changes need to be made in order to improve.
“I think also we need to include the educational piece or ... support to development squads, and the improvement of their skills. And I think we need to change the culture as well within the squads. We must have a code of practice for players coming onto Mayo teams. I think when you get a Mayo jersey, I think you must ... respect it, and when you do get it, that you hang onto it with your life.”
Clubs’ input will be sought on coaching
CLUBS will be asked for their input into the review of coaching and development squads, Mike Connelly confirmed. The Mayo GAA Board chairman was responding to a query from East Mayo GAA Board secretary Mary Prenty.
Central Council delegate Seán Mac Éil said the terms of reference of the committee examining coaching and development squads ‘have to clearly defined’. He said it was important that more than development squads be examined. “I assume they might also be have a look at schools, and how effective the coaching is there, and ... how strong or weak is coaching in the clubs,” he said.
“There’s no point in us having a situation where we have a system [only] from development squads upwards; we do need the clubs involved in it as well,” Mike Connelly agreed. “And there’ll be certain parts of it that will involve the clubs – in relation ... skills … and injur[ies] … So … clubs will have a part to play in it, and it will support them.”
Michael Lang (Tourmakeady) asked if the coaching review would also include ‘a review of facilities in the county’, noting that having ‘a number of centres around the county’ and close to schools might make more sense than one Centre of Excellence, given the size of Mayo.
“I think it’s important to have a link between the development squads and the underage teams,” said Fergal O’Connor (Ballycastle). “For instance, there was no player from North Mayo on the under-17 or minor squads this year. [Whether] clubs aren’t producing players, or they’re not being picked – either way, there’s a problem.”
Bord na nÓg chairman Con Moynihan did some research and revealed later in the meeting that no North Mayo club had reached an under-14 or under-16 final last year, but that seven had done so this year.
Pádraig Doherty (Ardagh), who had called for ‘spreading out’ Centres of Excellence ‘around the county’, said football skills ‘have to be learned at a [much] younger age than development squads’. He noted that ‘one of our most experienced coaches’ (Michael Fitzmaurice) recently resigned, and he asked if there were plans to replace him.
“I know in my area, a number of national schools out had no coaching at all this year,” he added. “Michael [Fitzmaurice] was doing an awful lot of the co-ordination, and was in constant contact with the clubs and the schools.”
Mike Connelly said Mayo GAA Games Manager Billy McNicholas was ‘putting in a contingency plan in the short-term to cover off the schools’ and that a replacement coach would be appointed in due course.
Connacht Council secretary John Prenty told The Mayo News that the number of development squad age-groups may be reduced, as a group are currently considering the possibility of having clubs concentrate on under-13, under-15 and under-17 rather than the even age-groups. A decision on that is expected by August.
BALLINROBE GAA club’s Liam Horan chaired the committee which in 2011 called for a full-time, paid Director of Football Coaching and the establishment of a Mayo Gaelic Football Academy for players aged 18-22.
Martin Carney also served on the steering committee for that Mayo GAA Draft Strategic Plan, whose most radical recommendations were largely shelved.
The Mayo Senior Football Development Academy was launched to much fanfare in October 2012, The aim of that 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.
However, after a promising start, the Academy became a ‘challenging’ initiative for Mayo GAA chiefs and is now understood to have been scaled back dramatically due to a lack of ‘contact time’ with players.
It’s 12 years since the unveiling of the Jack Kenny Memorial GAA development squads, a project involving a host of former Mayo players (including Martin Carney) and co-ordinated by current Mayo manager Stephen Rochford. That called for the establishment of Mayo squads at under-14, under-17 and under-19 level.