This Sporting Life

As 2015 fades into 2016 with all that a new year brings, the embers of the last 12 months sizzle a glow a last few times.

2015 was a year in which the plan was to do less. The catalayst was our planned family expedition to Peru which fell fair and square in the middle of the season and I initially thought accommodating the holiday and coaching commitments would be impossible.

Thankfully that proved not to be the case. It meant I missed some milestones but it was not something I would have missed.I was sorry to be absent for the Ulster final with the Antrim Minors – a group to which we devoted good time. It was a learning experience being there for the All Ireland quarter final though, and there are lessons on all these big days if you are open to them.

One of the imperatives of coaching is that you have to reinvent yourself if not the wheel every year, particularly if returning to the same group. I have had to be chameleon, chrysalis as well as coach in working with the main project in the Eoghan Rua Camogie team.

Facing into the pre season last winter the legacy of Gráinne McGoldrick’s injury hung over plans like a dark cloud. To see our taliswoman injured and facing an uncertain future struck to the core of the group. How the players would respond individually and collectively was the cornerstone of our plans. The longer term outcome was in much greater doubt and all year I was asked questions about it.

Over Christmas I had obtained a copy of Raymond Verheijen’s book on periodisation which shaped the way in which I approached the season and indeed in many ways it changed the way in which I approached all the teams I was involved with subsequently. If you put the player at the centre of what you are doing, you are forced to adopt a different approach and see a different way. That became apparent.

To sketch out what I was at, I was working with our u14 club hurlers, coaching them every Friday on the 3G with Jonny and Costas, two good men who contributed immensely to the whole set up and I felt were better communicating with the young lads than myself. Especially come Féile we were collectively buzzing and on Finals day Johnny took a lead which was fantastic.

I also agreed to help prepare the University hurlers for their championship. Having been one point short of an All Ireland a couple of years earlier albeit with a superior team and super bunch of lads the Holy Grail is still there to be sought. The campaign was short but interesting.

A derby match against Magee was unnecessarily sulphurous. Having won that the lads fell short against IT Blanchardstown their nemesis a couple of years earlier in the final. The irony of all of this is that had Coleraine and Magee stuck together they could possibly have won a couple of titles, but with the backing of Croke Park the division of the original team has helped neither campus develop their hurling capacity. In my experience hurling in Ulster needs to grab itself by the balls and develop itself. The University journey is a means to keep the coaching eye and arm in and look at small margins of development.

Also over the winter I had completed my Level 2 classroom based study and during the course of the season I had the Logbook and practicals to get sorted. As the song goes, it straightened out my thinking. It also introduced me to a number of other hurling coaches with whom I was able to share sporadic contact over the rest of the year. Indeed it was a devastating to hear of the death later in the season of Shane Mulholland, one of the guys with whom we share the course. Shane was a hurler with Fermanagh, I knew him only briefly on the Level 2 but what a sound lad he was. Hurling mad, good craic and a decent fella. He’ll be missed.

As winter moves towards Spring it is time for the Camogie player to emerge from their cocoon and start thinking about training. Armed with my new approach, I devised an entirely new pre season programme which I applied to the letter. The sessions incorporated the ball into everything from day one. We also had the task of integrating a number of younger players into an established panel.

It was a promising start, I had high hopes as to where it might end but little did I realise I would get there, albeit with an entirely different group. That is a tale for another day for sure.

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