On the #Dunboyne #GAA website and in some other material released in recent times, included have been images of the club’s senior players helping out with coaching some of the juvenile players who will be the future. That’s nothing new as it happens in clubs – and in all sporting codes – everywhere. However, what struck me most about the images on our club site was the presence of so many of last year’s victorious minor side helping out with the sessions. After all, it’s not that long ago since those lads were themselves the beneficiaries of such assistance. Perhaps what’s most seminal about their involvement goes back to something mentioned in a similar column here not so long ago – creation of a culture.
Simply as the hope would be that, having been given even that initial grounding in the non playing side of the game, that even some of them might be inclined to veer down the road of looking after the following generation of teams once their playing days have concluded. To that end, it’s been encouraging to see the good intentions recently outlined by the Meath GAA Steering Group followed up with action.
That being by way of Barry Callaghan’s appointment as Meath minor manager for 2016. And indeed the selection of his All Ireland winning colleagues Darren Fay and Paddy Reynolds as selectors. Consider too that two more former Meath players, Colm Coyle and Gerry Cooney are involved with other county underage teams and they all add up to steps in the right direction.
Outlining the above is not in any way meant as a dig at those who have been or are involved with other groups of representatives in green and gold. Quite the contrary. On a personal level, I am delighted to see Sean Barry remaining with the U-21’s (and hopefully the Juniors as well). It’s worth noting that in recent years that age group have had former county players Paraic Lyons and Tom Hanley and Cormac Sullivan involved with them.
In fairness, it must also be acknowledged that over the years numerous former players have had involvement with the county’s senior football team. Right up to the inclusion of former goalkeeper Brendan Murphy with the most recently installed grouping. That said, inclination is to suspect that getting former players involved with lads at younger ages – thereby creating the basis for continuity over a few years.
One need only look at the strides made by Dublin in the last decade or so on the back of the achievements of people such as Dessie Farrell and Jim Gavin with their underage outfits. It almost certainly led to the latter’s appointment as successor to Pat Gilroy as senior manager and we all know how it’s turned out since.
Presumably, Farrell or someone like Paddy Christie – who has been connected with Dublin U-18 players – would be among the front runners to take over from the affable and highly successful Clondalkin man whenever his time comes to step aside. Not that there’ll be any great rush for that to happen.
Lest one be accused of creating any sort of shrine to Dublin or, for that matter, being obsessively comparative between them and us, it should be noted that the great colossus Darragh O’Se was in charge of the Kerry U-21 ensemble in recent seasons and – highly successfully – Fergal Logan and Peter Canavan and Brian Dooher have fulfilled similar roles in Tyrone. No less than Kilkenny have had a smattering of former players involved in the Brian Cody era also.
Admittedly, the latter is of course regarding the county senior side, but, it’s most probable that other ex stars are involved with players in their developmental stages. Just as Tommy Dunne, William Maher and Liam Cahill have made similar contributions in Tipperary. Lists like these could conceivably be endless but the common denominator in most cases is that they’ve yielded fruit.
Maybe, though, most positivity should be derived from the vibes emanating regarding Meath going forward when taken against the air of discontent and mutinies which appears to prevailing in other counties. In those situations, nobody wins. Taken from that perspective, there’s reason to hope that these positive steps will end up starting a journey to a better place.
There’s no doubt the Meath senior footballers face a crucial and daunting 2016 in terms of the development of this group. Especially bereft of retired stars who’ve exited stage owing nobody anything. However, cognisance must always be maintained of the bigger picture. Our version of Rome certainly won’t be built in a day, but solid foundations have been dug and poured.