O'Donoghue sets sights on taking youngsters to next level
Munster U-18 Schools strength and conditioning coach Damien O’Donoghue gives an insight into the squad’s preparations ahead of their inter-provincial campaign
Originally from Cork, O'Donoghue began his Munster Rugby career as an intern with the senior squad in 2012 and now oversees the sub-academy strength and conditioning programme.
In working alongside a team of four interprovincial strength and conditioning coaches - Feargal O'Callaghan (Munster U-20), Danielle Cunningham (Munster U-19) and Jonny McGailey (Munster U-18 Clubs) - the Munster U-18 Schools interprovincial training schedule was put in place which included a five week Talent Camp programme at Rockwell College.
"We started a 12-week training schedule that began pre-Rockwell," explains O'Donoghue. "For every phase we'd sit down as a group and go through the outline of our programmes and set out what we wanted to achieve.
"We focused on getting the players to move right, which is always a priority.
"People think that strength and conditioning is all about lifting weights but it's not.
"That's no good for young players as their bodies simply aren't ready for it. Once they learn how to move correctly players can be lightly progressed with weights, taking it very slowly, but at this level its more about getting them accustomed to training.
"We treat every player as an individual and their training programme depends on their overall capabilities."
"Training includes speed tech which is basically running mechanics, getting back to our fundamental principle of getting the player to move right and hopefully reducing the risk of injury."
The U-18 Schools will begin their interprovincial series on Saturday, September 5 against Leinster in Donnybrook and O'Donoghue is confident the players are well prepared for their campaign.
"We are very happy with the way the programme has gone. When we originally started out at the planning stage we gave ourselves enough time to prepare and I think it has really stood to us.
"We put two phases in place, one before Rockwell and one during. The first incorporated two gym sessions a week prior to the Talent Camp which ensured the players came into Rockwell with a high level of fitness."
Recognising the importance of all the strength and conditioning coaches having the same objectives, O'Donoghue stresses that it is also essential that they have a strong relationship with the squad physiotherapists with a primary focus on player welfare.
"Every morning at Rockwell the players were monitored in terms of their weight, soreness, a sleep score and energy rating. We'd go through the results of each player with Damien Mordon (Munster U-18 physio) and try to identify trends.
"After analysis sometimes we may have to pull players back as maybe they're not adapting to the training load and at the end of the day their well-being is primary."
Following completion of the five-week Talent Camp programme the Munster U-18 Schools will continue their strength and conditioning schedule right through to the Interprovincial series under the supervision of O'Donoghue and the management team.
The squad will travel to Hartpury College this weekend to take on Gloucester Academy in a warm-up friendly to ensure the players will be well conditioned going into the interpros.
"The players are continuing with their gym work every Monday and will have squad days every Tuesday and Thursday," says O'Donoghue.
"It's important we continue with our programme and keep up the work-load. The players don't want to lose the strength that they've built up by slowing down after the interpros so we will continue to work hard.
"For now we just want to give them the tools to express themselves during the interpros and give them the best chance to get selected on the Ireland U-18 squad. That's what all the players will set out to do and it's our job as strength and conditioning coaches to help them achieve their goals."
Level 1 coaching course at Irish Independent Park
Munster Rugby recently hosted an IRFU Level 1 (Stage 3) coaching course at Irish Independent Park, with 44 club and school coaches in attendance.
The course included both outdoor practical coaching workshops and indoor generic modules with topics incorporating an introduction to the IRFU Long Term Player Development Pathway (LTPD) and IRFU Technical Model.
Indoor modules focused on the Role of the Coach, Management and Preparation of Practice Sessions, the Principles of Play and Strategic Team Play.
The outdoor modules included General Movement, Defence, Backplay, Individual Skills, the Benefits of Key Factor Analysis and Scrum and Lineout Development.
A follow-up a link course also took place upskilling coaches on Injury Prevention, Mental Skills and Fitness.
Coaches will continue with their accreditation process over the next 12 months with on pitch coaching observations conducted by Munster coach development officers.