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GAA fields come alive again


ALL GO Liam Glynn is pictured in action for Balla against St Michael’s of Galway during the 2017 Go Games Provincial Days at Croke Park.  Pic: Sportsfile

The way I see it

Ger Flanagan

A SMALL bit of normality crept back into many of our lives over the past few weeks when underage training returned after a prolonged lockdown.
Seeing empty GAA pitches over the last four months was akin to the same sort of emotions you experience when you drive by a Celtic Tiger era ghost estate.
They were crying out for life to be breathed into them, but bore all the hall-marks of a failing government and uncertain climate.
But there was something magical about seeing the excitement and general fun a flock of carefree kids can bring to an occasion after seeing the various groups return to Nally Park in Balla over the last fortnight.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that there genuinely wasn’t a blade of grass in the area, not just at the GAA club, that wasn’t being used for young boys or girls to play football with their friends. The GAA pitch, the school’s pitch and ‘the green’ were pushed to their limits to handle the droves of kids who yearned to escape the confines of lockdown.
Really and truly, surely this easing of restrictions should have happened sooner. The science was there to provide reassurance that outdoor transmission of Covid-19 is extremely low.
But that’s neither here nor there at this stage.
Incredibly, there was over 70 kids registered to play at under-7 level for Balla on the first night back. Herding cats springs to mind trying to decipher how you organise ‘pods’ and ‘social distancing’ and all the now normal requirements. But they were in good hands.
No doubt, those 70 kids won’t end up playing for the club up through the ages, most are probably shoved out the door by parents sick to death of trying to mind them, but it’s heartening to see that level of interest and numbers in the local GAA club.
In my opinion, the importance of GAA, and sport in general, cannot be underestimated for children.
They’ll build resilience and life-long friendships, it will improve their health and well-being, they’ll learn the importance of winning and losing, and how nothing that is worth achieving comes without hard-work and dedication – transferable lessons to many facets of life.
Plus, they’ll have a lot of craic along the way too!
And god knows, children have lacked exposure to all those important  life experiences over the past year. I’ve spoken to numerous parents who have visibly noticed positive mood changes in their kids from returning to play and just enjoying the fun with their friends.
The fun element was plentiful from what I saw in Balla over the past few weeks.
I saw kids doing impromptu press-ups and planks as they waited for training to start, others displaying impressive dance moves oblivious to the match that was taking place around them, and which they should have been playing in! I saw young lads throwing grass at each other, others having fun kicking each other, and some nice little footballers with potential too.
The (sore) hips don’t lie!
I’M lucky (or unlucky!) enough to be involved with our under-17 team for the year ahead, so I’ve been right in the middle of the sessions. It is a massive boost for your mental and physical energy. So much so I have to hold myself back from not getting involved in the drills myself, limiting to delivering kick passes and shadow defending.
It was a shock to the body the morning after session one. The short and hard lateral movements from the shadow defending had my hips in bits, a gentle reminder I’m not a teenager anymore.
The whole coaching aspect is relatively new to me too – and harder than it looks.
No one wants to be that over-the-top enthusiastic coach. We all had one.
But with that you want to try and find the balance of making the sessions enjoyable but challenging for the player. And when you have a lot of players, all of whom vary in ability and fitness, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
It has also taught me the importance of the very basic levels of communication and how you need to make things as easy to understand as possible. Sometimes that doesn’t even suffice, but that’s all part of the learning curve.
Oh, and never ever over-complicate anything because it doesn’t make you look any smarter and it usually ends in disaster.
Other times, when I am trying to get a point across and explain a drill, I feel like I’m looking at facial expressions that suggest maybe I am that aforementioned coach-type above!
I yearn for the days when we can just play ‘15 on 15’, throw the ball in and blow the whistle once to signal the start of the session. And a second time to signal the end.
It’s old school but it’s timeless.
Because when we get back underway this evening (Tuesday) for our first session back with the seniors ahead of the club championship, a ‘15 on 15’ game is all we’ll want to do as well.
And I’ll be the one judging the over-enthusiastic coaches, getting confused at complicated drills and not listening when explanations of said drills are being delivered.
I can’t wait – roll on tonight!

What do you think?
e-mail: sport@mayonews.ie


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