Saturday 21 April 2018

Cian O'Neill introduces occlusion goggles into Kildare training to improve accuracy and awareness

Jack O'Toole

Kildare manage Cian O'Neill revealed on RTE's new series GAA Nua that Kildare have been using occlusion goggles at training to improve each player's awareness and anticipation as they prepare for next month's Leinster final.

Kildare have gotten off to a fantastic start in the Leinster championship this year with blowout wins over Laois and Meath to advance to the Leinster final for the first time since 2009.

The Lilywhites have made a concerted effort over the last few seasons to improve the analytical aspect of their training with O'Neill and sports scientist Jason McGahan introducing GPS monitors and occlusion goggles to improve Kildare's physical performance on the pitch.

"We're always looking for those marginal gains," said O'Neill.

"We use different types of ancillary equipment such as the occlusion goggles. These are fascinating tools that we use to develop visual awareness, spatial awareness, anticipation on the ball.

"Because they occlude the lower portion of your vision, a lot of it is in relation to developing the kick-pass, the hand-pass, a ball coming towards you and picking it up off the ground.

"Because you can't see the last three to four metres of that, or you can't see the ball  actually striking your foot in the kick, it enhances the player's ability to do that under pressure, and at speed, when they haven't got the goggles on, which is of course what happens in competition."

Whether it's the occlusion goggles, GPS monitors, performance analysis or talented players like Paddy Brophy and Daniel Flynn simply thriving, Kildare have been phenomenal in front of goal so far in the Leinster championship scoring a combined 3-37 through two games to get back to Croke Park in July.

O'Neill claims that he's willing to look at any extra edge that will give his side an advantage on the field, and that he feels that it's imperative that modern managers surround themselves with an array of experts to better their sides.

"I love data, I'm a data geek," added O'Neill.

"Anything that I feel can help me to be a better manager, our coaching team to be better coaches, the players to become better athletes, that's what drives me on.

"Sports science is not supposed to take away from the fundamental skills of the game, from the tactical aspects of the game, from how the game should be played, but it's certainly if harnessed correctly, and appropriately, can inform managers and coaches and players how to be better at what they do in terms of preparation on the pitch and indeed recovery."

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