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'keep youth in games'

FRIDAY morning in Parnell Park. The sun is shining. The sprinklers are on. Noel Brady's front lawn resembles the turf at the Chelsea Flower Show.

The faithful begin to arrive. Tea and cake upstairs. A slick, glossy booklet awaits them. It's called Planning for Success – Young Gaelic Player Pathway.

The Dublin County Board publication is to support coaches, mentors, teachers and parents in a very practical way. It focuses on doing the right thing at the right time – and in the right way.

Coaching Development Committee chairman Seán Shanley, launched the initiative. He was at the top table with County Board chief, Andy Kettle, Dublin minor hurling manager, Pat Fanning, Dublin minor football manager, Cyril Kevlihan, and Dublin coaching supremo, Ger O'Connor, who developed the plan.

The Dublin County Board CEO, John Costello, was also in attendance, as was the Dublin senior football selector, Shane O'Hanlon, plus many coaches and club officials, including one of the finest footballers in the county, Stephen O'Shaughnessy – now an established part of the Donnycarney roll call.

The proceedings were sharp and to the point – like a firm hand pass. Sean Shanley threw in the ball. He had a simple story to tell. "I was talking to a nine-year-old boy. I asked him how he was getting on at the games. He replied that he had quit," explained Sean.

"It's hard to take in when a nine-year-old child is saying he has given up. It shouldn't happen. And the question is why? What we are launching here today will help keep children involved and playing.

"I think this is an exceptional booklet. It's simple and it brings home the value of team work. In this life, we achieve nothing without team work.

"What especially appeals to me about the booklet is it focuses on what we should expect from the different age groups. There could be managers or parents who have played the game for 20 years expecting their small child to kick the ball over the bar from 20 yards. It's just not on."

HIGHER

Ger O'Connor agreed. He is never far from the coalface. "I have seen mentors expecting kids to perform the higher level skills when they are only learning the game.

"The key to this document is that it is player-centred. It's all about developing the next generations of players.

"As a coach, you want to spend your time wisely on the pitch. But with modern-day life and people working and so forth, you don't always have as much time as you'd like to plan a session. This booklet will help with that. It will take the guess work out of coaching."

The brightly coloured production includes the telling line from Lao Tzu: "A journey must begin with a single step."

Dublin began walking many years ago, as Andy Kettle related. "When you are at meetings in Croke Park, you hear people saying, 'That's what Dublin did, so it must be right'.

"We have a coaching template to be proud of. And all our coaches – those here in Parnell Park and in all the clubs – deserve the height of praise.

"We have had success. But the work towards that started 10 to 15 years ago. It didn't happen overnight. We don't know it all, but we are learning as we go along."


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