I appreciate that we have been extraordinarily successful in the recent past and this probably accounts for our propensity to look backwards rather than forwards, however its proving very unhelpful in the overall context of improvement for Offaly GAA at the moment. Even the series of recent articles and proposed articles by one of the most interested GAA Journo’s in the County seems to be focused on individuals, albeit successful individuals from our past. The beauty of the GAA is that its constantly evolving and the next generation moves it forward with their own ideas. Therefore I believe, the answers to our problems will not be found in the past but with persons currently unknown and yet to rise to the top.
An awareness of ones history, past successes and winning culture is important for future generations however this can be instilled through a modern programme of coaching and through the provision of an appropriate program of games. Since his appointment, Alan Mulhall has been promoting and espousing the very same sentiments that Martin Fogoraty convened on Wed evening. The take up to date by Clubs and County has been very poor and ultimately to our own detriment. This has been for a myriad of reasons but fundamentally down to a lack of interest, reluctance to take advice from outside and poor leadership from the top to ensure implementation.
Like many in Irish society, we are obsessed with the quick fix, the magic bullet solution if you will - hopefully the realisation that this is not forthcoming will dawn on Offaly Gaels very soon. I believe the solution to our current difficulties is very simple and can be achieved with very little effort. It will require patience and a realisation that the recovery will be slow and not always obvious. When I say little effort – I mean that a huge amount of effort and man hours are being invested as we speak however much of it mis-directed (If only we had Hawk Eye). A redirected energy and enthusiasm combined with a willingness to learn and implement best practice will go a long way. Allowing Alan Mulhall and his staff the authority to shake up clubs not implementing best practice should be encouraged from the top and leadership shown where clubs are under performing in this regard. Clubs need leadership, the leadership to appoint persons qualified to coach through the GAA programme and most importantly leadership to understand and realise player development trumps an underage championship.
At present we have large urban clubs seriously under performing on the field and off. This has a nett result of not attracting an appropriate percentage of the available playing base. This has a significant knock on for our County. In addition rural clubs are creating amalgamations of convenience in order to capture an underage title. In so doing discarding players at their disposal that could be used to create a team to play at a lower level. These issues along with narrow minded culture of manipulating fixtures and games programmes to suit short term objectives is damaging our games and the potential of our games.
Across both codes the 3 key areas of development are Children (8-12 Go Games), Teens (13-18) and adults. Plans for the development should focus on these 3 key areas;
8-12 – Focus should be on recruitment, quality introductory coaching including fundamental movement skills and FUN
Teens – Focus should be on player development over winning and ensuring that quality people with an understanding of coach education are appointed to all teams
Adults – Quality internal coaches over adult teams with a recreational element for non competitive players.
We need to get a handle on coach education in this County;
• how many Level 1 Coaches do we have in the County
• How many Level 2 Coaches do we have in the County
• How many Offaly coaches are registered at http://learning.gaa.ie
Whilst our problems are most obvious at County level the answers lie with our clubs, we bemoan poor leadership at County Board Level but it stems from even poorer leadership at Club level. Until our clubs embrace the message of coach education, embrace the programmes set down by Alan Mulhall and recognise that we don’t always have the answers ourselves and mirroring leaders of the past will not work.
Get the clubs right, get the coaches right, get the games programme right, get results right, right?