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Talking Sport

Galway football needs to undergo huge revolution

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Ex Galway player Breandán O Callarán who has strong views on how the sport is being run and coached in the county.

Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

‘Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ Albert Einstein.

It seems appropriate that former Coláiste Colm Cille (Indreabhán) school teacher Breandán O Callarán, a man who has spent his working life in education, should quote learned scholar and theoretical physicist Einstein when he delivers his assessment on Galway football.
To say O Callarán, who played for Galway senior footballers in All-Ireland finals in 1971, ’73 and ’74, is frustrated with the lack of progress and deeply concerned with the apathy that resides in GAA circles locally at present is an understatement. His exasperation is well-founded.
In 2009, the ex-Galway VEC Chief Executive Officer spearheaded a Strategic Review that was passed unanimously at the annual Football Convention. Yet, five years later, he believes few of the measures proposed have been adopted and he fears where Galway football is heading.
It’s crucial to say at this juncture that O Callarán is not interested in the blame game, at pointing fingers at Board officials or anybody else in Galway football circles. He stresses: “This is not a rant. I don’t want to cause any ‘aggro’ whatsoever but what I am trying to do is cause a debate.
“The problems we have will not be solved by, to use the expression, guys in smoky rooms – we don’t have those anymore – but as Einstein said lunacy is ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. So, we have to do things differently.
“All the discussion in recent years has come down to who will be the next senior manager when, in fact, all areas of Galway football have to be examined and constantly evaluated. So, this is not about putting anybody down but seeing how we can make things better.”
This has been the crux of the problem for Galway football over the past decade. When anybody raises their head above the parapet, the response is to shoot the messenger rather than listen to the message. There are times, then, when the message falls on deaf ears.
“At the Football Convention in 2009, the strategic review was well-praised and was accepted unanimously but, I’d say, we hadn’t left the room when half of them ended up in the dust bin,” continues O Callarán, who is currently Chairman of Connacht Coaching & Games Committee and a member of the National Coaching & Games Committee.
“Not one item has ever been taken on by the Board and it was accepted unanimously! Nothing ever was done. We tend to put a plan in place but we don’t evaluate it. As I said though, the purpose of this is not about finding scapegoats.”
The Mountbellew/Moylough native is not without ideas and one certainly carries a great deal of weight. “We should be looking at what is the quality of coaching being done. There is tremendous enthusiasm and goodwill – people’s hearts are in the right place – but an adjustment to the way we do things could lend to a much better outcome.
“By that I mean providing a mentoring programme to clubs. Take the likes of John Tobin, Liam Sammon or Frank Morris, you could name a number of people. Having these guys train teams now is a waste of time; what we need is have them working with the underage coaches in clubs in a mentoring situation.”
This would involve a respected, astute coach going into a club on a Saturday and working with the U-10, U-12, U-14 and U-16 coaches over consecutive hours to implement a development plan that consistently resonates up through the respective grades.
“A mentor would go and say this is the programme we should be doing with an U-10 team. Talk people through it. He would then demonstrate by taking the team for 20 minutes of the coaching session and then he would come along and say to the club coach to take them then.
“The mentor would observe and give the coaches feedback; it might be like talk a little less, don’t let the players off before they understand what they have to do and why they are doing it,” explains O Callarán, who notes it’s the same principle adopted in business and education.
“If I was journalist starting out in the morning you wouldn’t have me doing the lead story about the Pope coming to Galway without seeing what I could do. I would be mentored before I got to that point. It is the same in business or education; a mentor would be provided.
“I think the outcome of this would be that you would have much better quality coaches and players. And clubs would be growing their own indigenous coaches and trainers. They would not have to spend money that clubs are spending now in hiring in coaches. That is the future.”
Of course, when you look at successful teams in recent years – such as the Dublin footballers – a great deal of money was pumped into the squad to ensure no stone was left unturned. Despite the generous sponsorship of Supermacs, Galway don’t have the same depth of financial resources at their disposal at present.
“Money isn’t essentially the big problem with us though,” states O Callarán. “The thing is we have to have a well-thought out plan with aims and objectives, what are you trying to achieve and then you set out working towards that.
“Yes, some people will say sure it is easy for Dublin because they have a lot of money. Maybe, but what Dublin do have is a very good [coaching] structure in the county. The question I would ask: are we getting the best use of the talents from our coaches?’”
Without a plan or vision for Galway football – including establishing a definitive Galway style of play – he doesn’t believe the county’s coaches can maximise their potential and, consequently, this hampers the development of the players coming through.
“By evaluating the plan, you say ‘this, this and this worked well but we could do better on two or three other things’. It’s the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. I do a little bit on this for schools.
“You go in and say what are we good at, what are the things we could improve on, and then produce a plan to improve that and then evaluate it at the end of the year. It is actually the very same thing as we are talking about with the football. That would be the coaching area.”
Sticking with coaching, he also worries about the emphasis being placed on club coaches to develop underage teams rather than encouraging individuals to become better players who can reach their full potential.
“That is what underage coaching should be about. Not winning trophies. Fine if that comes about. If you and I work with individuals in a team, the collective vision should be to improve them as individuals right up to U-16. After U-16, you then go onto team-work.”
This certainly ties in with the philosophy of the great Crossmaglen Rangers club of Armagh which, at a Croke Park conference some years ago, highlighted this was the ethos they embraced and even built their club around. For them, it’s all about developing the player at underage.
To underline the point they read out their ‘Roll of Honour’ – outlining they had only won a handful of U-16 titles, just eight minor crowns and 10 U-21 titles. As of this year, 2014, they have 41 county senior, 10 Ulster and six All-Ireland club titles to their name.
Away from the playing fields and training grounds, O Callarán says a similar vision is just as important, be it helping clubs to put their own plan or vision in place, up-skilling club and board officials, or addressing the issue of finance at club and county level.
“For example, being involved in one way or the other with the Board, I have never yet seen in 35 years, the Treasurer to produce a financial projection for the year. To say, we have a senior team and so on and it will cost ‘X’ amount and we need to raise ‘Y’ amount for football for the year.”
He recognises there have been some very good treasurers involved over the decades but now he believes Galway football requires a business model – as part of the overall vision and strategy – going forward.
“We need strong leadership, we need a vision, we need a plan and we need to evaluate on a constant basis. Evaluate what we are doing well and what can we improve on. This should be an annual part of the review.
“Otherwise, our turn [to be a genuine contender] is not going to come again as it stands. You would have argued previously that Galway’s turn in football would come every so often but our turn won’t come again because so many counties now are so well organised.
“So, we have to plan it out and we have to make maximum use of our resources. We are brilliantly supplied with pitches, dressing-rooms and weights room but we have not kept pace with developing our personnel, which would be our trainers, administrators and board officials to run the game in as an efficient and effective way as possible.”
Although the adopted An Spidéal man addresses another number of key points, the fundamental question is how do the stakeholders in Galway football begin to implement change? Is the capacity or willingness to change there?
“I hope this would start a debate in Galway football, even if it is someone writing in to say that it is the greatest load of crap I have ever heard from Brendan Colleran. I don’t care what they say but if we got people talking about Galway football, that is a start,” he concludes.
If people have views or ideas on this topic, why not have your say by writing to Stephen Glennon, 15 Market Street, Galway or emailing stephen.glennon@ctribune.ie

Connacht Tribune

Connacht raise the roof again with magnificent late heroics

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Claregalway's Dara Whelan, Conor Flaherty, Barry Callanan and Dylan Buckley with the Padraig Stephens Cup after their County U20 A Football Final victory over Salthill-Knocknacarra at Duggan Park on Saturday. Photo: Enda Noone.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE dramatic finale at the Sportsground on Saturday ought to have made the RTE Six One News sporting headlines, but there wasn’t a mention of Connacht’s extraordinary late heroics against Gloucester which keeps the province’s hopes of reaching the European Champions Cup quarter-finals alive.

Instead, the rugby spotlight was on Munster’s away defeat to champions Saracens. Later during the sports segment on the Six One News, Connacht’s never-say-die comeback was relegated to the last match of the Champions Cup wrap up. RTE, in their wisdom, believed that Munster’s 15-6 loss and Leinster’s routing of a makeshift Northampton on the same day were somehow more meritorious.

If Leinster or Munster had achieved what Connacht did in the latest round of European pool matches, can you imagine how gushing RTE’s coverage would have been? When a Tipperary man with a strong GAA background starts taking offence over Connacht not getting the coverage they are entitled to, it does give an insight into why rugby in the West feels hard done by in terms of national acclaim.

For all that, last Saturday was another thumping experience on College Road. With their European Championship knock-out ambitions on the line, it was victory or bust for Caolin Blade and company. But when Connacht trailed by 24-13 with less than six minutes remaining, it was impossible to see how they could salvage a result.

A pragmatic Gloucester already had the four-try bonus point in the bag. They may have trailed 10-7 at the break having faced the elements, but  tries from Mark Atkinson (two) and captain Lewis Ludlow turned the game on its head. Connacht were remaining competitive but the breaks were going the way of a team they had never previously beaten.

The home fans in the crowd of 6,800 were understandably resigned to the worst. The yellow carding of Ludlow for a deliberate knock on meant Gloucester were reduced to 14 for the closing minutes, but nobody at the Sportsground thought much of it. Connacht were 11 points behind with time running out. They needed a miracle.

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Connacht Tribune

Being backed into a corner could help to ignite the Galway hurlers

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Galway full back Daithí Burke giving Wexford's Paul Morris no quarter during Sunday's Leinster hurling championship clash at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

MICHEÁL Donoghue faces the biggest challenge of his management career so far after Galway’s latest subdued display of 2019 at Pearse Stadium last Sunday. A lot of the same personnel are still there from the team’s magnificent All-Ireland triumph of two years, but the form of a number of influential players has nose-dived since last September’s championship loss to Limerick.

After a late collapse against Waterford in the National League quarter-final, Galway had some questions to answer ahead of their Leinster campaign and not withstanding their significant injury problems over the past few months, the Tribesmen’s stock has continued to decline judging by this month’s displays against both Carlow and Wexford.

Though it’s far from a full-blown crisis and we must keep a sense of perspective, there’s no point being wise after the event. On the evidence of what have seen to date this summer, Galway are dicing with an unexpected premature exit from the championship unless the squad can rediscover the hunger, intensity and quality which characterised many of their performances in 2017.

The continued absence of Joe Canning – and it is a mighty blow – can’t explain everything. Sure, Daithí Burke, Joseph Cooney, Jonathan Glynn, Adrian Tuohey and John Hanbury, an important introduction against Wexford, remain short of competitive action, but as a package, Galway should still be better than this.

Failing to find the net against either Carlow or Wexford, together with the lack of fluency and sharpness, has some local alarm bells ringing, leaving the team management with plenty to ponder on ahead of Sunday week’s big collision with Kilkenny. Lose that and Galway’s season will hang on getting a result at Parnell Park – an unforgiving venue at the best of times.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

St Thomas’ man behind the scenes typifies why club is going so strong

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The St. Thomas' management celebrate after their county SHC final victory over Liam Mellows. Left to right: Kenneth Larkin, Claude Geoghegan, Kevin Lally and TJ Ryan.

Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

WHAT was meant to be a few minutes of soundbite ahead of St. Thomas’ All-Ireland senior club hurling semi-final clash against Cushendall on Saturday has metamorphosed into a full-scale Talking Sport interview. Simply, because, Claude Geoghegan is an interesting guy.

For the past decade, Geoghegan has been the man behind the scenes and in his own inimitable way he has contributed just as much to St. Thomas’s success story as anybody else in Kilchreest and Peterswell. Perhaps, even more so.

As club secretary, he presided over St. Thomas’ historic county and All-Ireland club victories in the 2012/2013 season while, in the past three years, he has served as selector under managers John Burke and Kevin Lally, winning a county senior crown with each in 2016 and 2018 respectively. It is a proud record.

“I have held a few positions alright over the best part of a decade now — four or five years as secretary — and this is my third year involved now with the senior team. It is a way of life, I suppose, more than anything else,” begins the 31-year-old.

“When you are from a rural locality, it is what you are brought up with. It is what you know. If I wasn’t involved in the club in some capacity, I would feel I had a bit too much spare time on my hands. I would feel a bit odd without it, being honest.”

A history teacher at Presentation College, Athenry, Geoghegan explains his family are steeped in GAA tradition. His father Seamus hurled with the club before managing the intermediate team, as it was back then, while his older brother James has also done his duty as club secretary.

“Also, when the club amalgamated in 1968, my father was on the U14 team that won the county championship that year. We actually haven’t won the ‘A’ championship at U14 since. We have won plenty, but not that.”

Indeed, three SHC county titles in the last seven years would suggest that St. Thomas’ is a very special club but Geoghegan argues they are no different to any of the other clubs around. “Every other club is putting in the time that we are putting in. We are not special in any way in comparison to anyone else but we are incredibly fortunate to have a special group of players who have come together at one time.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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