Wednesday 21 March 2018

GAA legend Whelan reaching new goals

Mark Hilliard

GAA LEGEND Mickey Whelan said yesterday he stood on the shoulders of giants throughout his impressive sports career.

Now his scientific research is likely to breed the next batch of 'superhuman' sports stars.

At a gathering of sporting scientists in Dublin City University (DCU) yesterday, the former Dublin player and manager, now in his 70s, collected a hard-earned PhD, and a separate prize for sporting achievement.

But despite his exemplary record, Mr Whelan's vision belongs entirely to the future, a brave new world of GAA development.

His invaluable research, under the supervision of Professor Niall Moyna, helped usher in a new era of training for young children, called 'Go Games'.

"That would have been influenced by his pioneering research; that there is an influence from reducing the size of the pitch and getting the players more active and giving them more ball control time," said lecturer Dr Giles Warrington. The theory is simple and not unfamiliar to other sports around the world -- reduce the size of both pitch and teams and develop young players, both technically and physiologically.

"He was ahead of his time with a lot of his methodology. It could have a major influence on the approach to training," said Dr Warrington.

Mr Whelan was visibly moved yesterday, kitted out in his doctoral garb and virtually reduced to tears when he was unveiled as the surprise recipient of the inaugural Darren Sutherland Memorial Award for sporting achievement.

"Anything I have achieved I have achieved it because I have always stood on the shoulders of giants and they are all around me, and there is nobody bigger than my wife," he said.

But even with years of wisdom and experience, he was humble in victory -- perhaps a trait best learned on the field.


"I am very surprised but I think (my name) shouldn't have been called out, I am an old man," he said.

Tragic boxer Darren Sutherland's father Tony was also present at the award ceremony yesterday, which followed nearby student graduations.

He presented Mr Whelan with the prize named in honour of his late son -- who won a bronze medal for Ireland at the Olympics -- but declined to speak or comment afterwards.

The Sutherland family is still awaiting an inquest into the death of the boxer, who was also praised yesterday for his academic achievements at the university.

"He was one of the first elite athletes to attempt to combine full-time training and study in our school, a task he managed impeccably with tremendous dedication and determination," said Dr Warrington.

Mr Sutherland was found dead in his apartment in Bromley, London in September, 2009.

Irish Independent

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