Imagine There’s No Sliotar. . .

A while back I went along to a coaching session where Eamon O’Shea, the Tipp coach was scheduled to speak. Although I’d read a bit about O’Shea, and how he told the Tipp team they would score goals against Kilkenny in Croker, I didn’t really know much about him. Well, I do now.

During the course of the session he ran a drill of backs v forwards. What’s the big deal about that? Well, aside from the fact he didn’t bother with any cones, the drill went ahead without a sliotar. And, whilst the players were encouraged to proceed as if the sliotar was there, what the drill forced them to do was to think about their running and movement.

And so they hurled away without the ball. It was full on stuff 100% as the cliché says. But the running patterns were good. As one wag from our club put it, ‘training like this will save us a fortune in balls.’

He also suggested getting young children, beginners U-8s to practice the movements of the game, swinging the stick and catching the ball; their movement and balance without using a hurley and ball at all. I tried having our U-8s strike an imaginary ball at training on Friday night and it was the best craic we had. “Ok lads, it’s the last minute, your sixty metres out and your hitting this one over the bar to win the game, away ye go.” Cue sixteen lads nailing the ball, myself in the middle of them striking my own imaginary sliotar over the bar.

And the lads? Well they celebrated scoring those points as if they’d won the All Ireland itself. And you know what, not one of them missed, every single one of them scored. Imagine that?

Sure you couldn’t do better than that. Sometimes it takes listening to a fella like Eamon O’Shea. Certainly made me do better.

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