Role with the GCA:
Head of Strength and Conditioning
St Patrick’s GAA
Explain to us your role and what’s involved for you on a day to day basis with the GCA?
My role involves looking after all the Strength & Conditioning for all GCA squads. We test squads, design suitable plans for each age grade and supervise training sessions. Our aim is to create an environment where we can increase the players understanding of S&C.
What does the GCA mean to you and what is it’s importance to Wicklow GAA in general?
I’m a huge fan of the structure within the GCA, the committee have a clear vision of how the want to try create a consistent conveyer belt of players to prepare them for the demands of Senior Inter County Football. Its a Long Term Pathway designed to try improve the many areas of training that lead to improved performance.
What do you think we can do better as a county to improve our standard?
We need to educate and improve our standard of coaching. We need more GDA’s to help educate our club coaches as they are fundamental in every single juvenile that steps on a GAA pitch across the county, the better coaching they are exposed to the greater the standard of player Wicklow Gaa will have. We have some excellent coaches in place we just need MORE!!
Where do you see Wicklow GAA in Ten Years time?
It’s hard to say but I think if we can continue to improve, develop and grow the numbers in the academy along with increase the club coaching standards we could see a Wicklow side in Division 2, the problem is that the current gap is very wide and it will need a relentless, undeterred effort for a long consistent period of time.
What can the GAA clubs of Wicklow and Wicklow GAA people do to help the GCA?
The academy needs support, we are stuck in Division 4 for a reason and we haven’t progressed as county despite our love for GAA. The academy needs support from everyone possible be it fundraising, volunteering, coaching, nominating players, driving them to training, making sandwiches etc. no job is to big or to small – we’ve even drafted in PR expertise from the famous Bill Hill sure!!!!!
From an onlookers prospective we see great positivity and composure in the current Wicklow Minor team but one of the big factors that is clearly evident is the belief these guys seem to have in themselves and the system they play and have no fear of reputations. Is this something that is instilled in them in the GCA?
I think we could see something special with this group very early on when they entered the academy. The clubs had coached a lot of these guys really well so the foundation was there to build on and over the last three years they seem to gel and grow very well. The current management team has put a huge emphasis on the importance of being a unit and its been vital in their success of late.
In your words could you give people a brief overview of the journey a young Wicklow kid would take from initial stages of the GCA through to adult level?
From a S&C point of view when we start with the players we test their movement, strengths and weakness as our main aim is to reduce the risk of injury and keep the players on the field. We first focus on making players stable & mobile and then we try build on that foundation as the progress through the squads. As the players reach minor the focus will be towards strength, size and power development, each plan becomes more individualised and the players knowledge and training age should be far greater.
Is there anything that pages like our own and the Wicklow People, Garden County Sport etc. can do to promote the GCA’s work or any initiatives you’d like to see put in place to aid the people who run the GCA?
I think Brendan Lawrence has really transformed the sports coverage in Wicklow over the last few years and now with the Garden County Sport and other social media outlets there really is great opportunity to keep up with what’s going on, so basically I think we just need more of the same!
How important do you think it is that parents trust in the GCA methods and keep the faith and is the GCA an environment that can develop a young player even if they are not always starting every game?
I think the parents have been great, its a huge ask for parents to drag the lads around the county for training & matches but I think this has been made easier when the see the efforts made by the academy to create a environment for them to enjoy and develop their football.
With regards to the day to day running of the GCA and with such a huge volume of young kids, the costs for equipment and gear must be extremely high. Can a business approach you to help fund the future Wicklow GAA Stars and where do they go to get in touch if they’d like to contribute in any way?
Brendan Symth & Philip Mac are the guys to speak to about that. Costs are high but we are lucky to have some great sponsors like Glen Fuels etc. on board but we need more if possible.
The current minors are well conditioned units so the Strength & Conditioning is obviously paying off and has helped a few players along the way. How important is a good strength & conditioning programme to theses lads?
S&C is important when it comes to injury reduction, strength speed & power development but its a only as important as the next cog in the wheel. If the players diet is poor the gym plan won’t be as effect as it should be, everything is overlapping from tactics, gym work, rest, skills, nutrition, analysis etc. and each complements the next. Adrian Ryan & Kevin O’Brien have the lads in great shape and that takes a lot of communication between management and also players when it comes to training load prior to peaking for these big games continually.
As a man who has been there all the way along, could you highlight a couple of current Wicklow players who have worked hard at the strength and conditioning when they started at 14 and the improvement they have made up until now?
Jasus there’s a good crew there to pick from but when I was watching them last week and Ben Fennell was producing some of those superb stops I thought back to when he was a tiny 14 year old in the gym in Ballinakill. Some of the management were talking about reducing the squad and Ben’s name cropped up at the start of the session and they were considering cutting him but after I’d put them through a tough session and they seen Ben train it was clear he had the attitude they were looking for, non stop effort and a positive voice around the gym. I can’t remember Ben ever missing training and if he did I’d bet it wasn’t many
Andy Foley has made great improvements since we took the mirror out of the gym he’s actually started to do a bit of training in there!!! #shaper
With a Wicklow Football Legend Like Kevin O Brien at the helm it seems that the young lads have massive respect for him so does the GCA need more coaches and mentors and would it be good for the academy squad to get more former players involved with the GCA like Kevin O Brien and Gareth Doyle etc.?
Its key to keep men like Kevin involved with our Wicklow GAA teams, we all know what he has done on the field but he has also been involved in some great management teams and experienced what its like at the top and what is expected or needed to be successful. When I met Kevin back 8 or 9 months ago he spoke about getting everything possible in place to give these lads the best chance possible to win Leinster, he demanded the best for the group and the academy committee has responded well to meet those requests. More importantly the players have responded so well, look where they are, look how they play, look how united they are, its a joy to watch and its proof that if we offer the players the proper environment and a top class coaching set up we can bridge the gap between us and the rest. Hon the Garden….
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