Coaching officer Declan O’Reilly outlines his plans for 2021
“I GET the sense that this is a new chapter in Mayo GAA. Where it takes us, who knows?
“But you’ve got a new Under-17 manager, a new Under-20 manager, a new structure with the Academy, and essentially a new senior team. With that outstanding senior team of the last decade now essentially finishing up, the question is, ‘what happens next in Mayo GAA?’
“That question intrigues me.”
These the words of Mayo GAA coaching officer, Declan O’Reilly, last week as he surveyed the Mayo footballing landscape and outlined his main priorities for the season ahead.
The county’s Under-14, Under-15 and Under-16 football squads all operate under the ‘Mayo Academy’ umbrella and O’Reilly was keen to stress that they are ‘a big priority’ for him once the GAA gives the go-ahead for them to begin training in the weeks ahead.
Mayo’s underage squads haven’t ‘had boots on the ground’ for more than a year, but senior County Board officials, the team managers, and Declan O’Reilly himself are all keen to make up for lost time. They are hoping that the development squads will be able to train and play matches every Saturday morning for six months, beginning in June, ‘Covid permitting’.
“For the evolution of Mayo football, it’s absolutely key that we get the Academies right and that’s going to be my focus this year,” O’Reilly told The Mayo News.
“We have a new structure. This was primarily changed two or three years ago with the help of Austy O’Malley, the Academy Manager, and Liam Moffatt, who was Coaching Officer at the time. It’s gone into the ‘mixed model’ way.
“The change in the structure will see Kieran Kilkenny, who is one of the Mayo GAA Games Promotion Officers, take on the role of Academy Manager.
“Kieran has taken over from Austy O’Malley, who is based in Dublin and has taken on a new role with the Mayo ladies. But he’s going to continue with us in a ‘Performance Coach’ role.
“Our team managers are Diarmuid Byrne (Under-16), Tom Mulderrig (Under-15) and Tom Reilly (Under-14). We’re going to give them everything they need high performance wise; in terms of performance analysis, athletic development, skills. . Everything that you need to develop into a better footballer.
“But the key is the people.”
O’Reilly, who represented Mayo at all levels and won Mayo SFC medals with Castlebar Mitchels as both a player and manager, explained that each of the Academy’s three teams will have eight coaches (including the managers) and a number of these personnel have already been recruited.
“There’s a lot of work done, and the calibre of people we’re looking for are former county players, former club players, present club players and managers, and former club managers. “We’re looking for people willing to give up their time to help to develop and improve our young players, at both club and inter-county level.
“The resources are key, they’ll be provided by Mayo GAA, but the people will make it work or not.
“People who have given so much to the game with club and county, and people who are recognisable to our younger players, that they will look up to.
“It looks like we have three very exciting Academy management teams lined up,” he continued, while also referencing the successful introduction of ‘a competency-based interview system’ for the appointments of both the Mayo Under-17 and Under-20 managers, Seán Deane and Maurice Sheridan, earlier this year.