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Non-competitive academy structure hailed as a success

MANY NDSL clubs face a new departure next season with the introduction of the ‘non-competitive’ 5-a-side soccer and while some have voiced mild apprehension, there is good news to help set your minds at ease.

Portmarnock AFC took a brave decision – and with the backing of the club’s officers – parents agreed to withdraw players from the competitive game and instead develop them through their own academy structure. The logic was that it was better to get two and a half hours guaranteed football and coaching on a Saturday morning rather than play a game and perhaps only get a few touches.

The club has a Nippers Academy (4-6 years) on a Saturday morning for the last 10 years and they were well organised and had the advantage of being able to call on excellent personnel to help out. Over the years, amongst others, Norman Whelan, Brian McWilliams, Garry Foran, Frank Devlin, Craig Bolton, Martin Keating, Martin Connors and Mick Lawlor have looked after them.

Portmarnock AFC academy committee member, Brian Irwin, said: “After our kids were finished in the academy we were asked to look after them in 2009 and this is a rundown of what happened. “Ex first-team players Craig Bolton, Johnny Doran and Barry Flynn will be running it for next season as their kids are joining, so the next generation of future stars arrive in Paddy’s Hill (Portmarnock AFC). “We started with 21 and ended up two years later finishing with 27,” says Irwin. With the committee backing the idea, it was implemented on a two-year trial. The following age group followed suit and Portmarnock now has a third group doing the same.

Said Irwin: “We believe that the children getting 2.5 hours ballwork was far better than playing matches where they would only get a few minutes game time. “We strongly believed that it would help all of them, but it would especially help kids who were weaker and bring them along and try and ensure they continued and were not lost to football. We are very pleased with the results we are getting with the kids on a consistent basis,” says Irwin. “The idea was to get away from pushy parents demanding success ahead of development and, while it took some convincing, the club is now reaping the rewards.

“In year one, we worked on getting the ball under control being able to pass the ball to each other and striking the ball properly. “In year two we continued with that but introduced more 2 v 2, 3 v 3, 4 v 4 games and Barca’s piggy in the middle warm-up game (Rondo). “We played a number of games against other teams and also played in the Greenclean Cup in Portmarnock AFC’s Paddy’s Hill and it was a tremendous success,” states Irwin. “For two years following the Nippers Academy players graduate to the Senior Nippers and this programme is to prepare for Under 9/10 football where they are registering excellent results.

“Parents have got to buy into the philosophy from the start but we are convinced that this is the way forward and we’re delighted to see the likes of the NDSL introduce the non-competitive game into organised league structure”. Any parents interested in enrolling in the Portmarnock Nippers Academy can email info@portmanockfc.com and leave your relevant details and contact number.