Cathal Cregg looking forward to new role with Connacht GAA
By Cian O’Connell
These are interesting times in the west so Cathal Cregg is delighted to be commencing work as Connacht GAA Provincial Games Development Manager in a fortnight.
Cregg succeeds the popular John Tobin, who is retiring from the role, and the Roscommon footballer is looking forward to taking up the new position.
Having spent five years as Head Strength and Conditioning Officer in Connacht, Cregg laughs when it is suggested that there won’t be too many quiet days in his schedule.
“Definitely not, because you have a huge variance of topics, you have your coach education, your Cul Camps which is a huge project for clubs for the summer, you have your academy squads, your schools initiatives, then you'd have all your other initiatives in your clubs like your Go Games and your nursery programmes,” the Western Gaels clubman says.
“Then in the Youth Programme you have Feile and your academy squads. There is any amount of initiatives so it is never going to be quiet. It is all about working with the counties individually to get their games programme in place so they have equal opportunities for all players of all ages and all abilities.”
We will be doing a lot of work with a couple of new schools initiatives that are coming out, the Five Stars Centre for the primary schools and then in the secondary schools you have your Super Games Centre and your Future Leader Programmes.
It is a broad remit, but Cregg is hopeful about building on the solid foundations in Mayo, Galway, Roscommon, Sligo, and Leitrim.
“I suppose it is pretty broad, but there are a few areas we would like to get to work in,” Cregg acknowledges.
“We have a new club mentoring programme which John Tobin initiated at the end of last year which helps getting into clubs and helping them with their coaching structures through coach education. That is something we will be doing right from the get go.
Studies will be undertaken to assess the best way forward in the future. “We will be starting off doing a lot of work with a couple of new schools initiatives that are coming out, the Five Stars Centre for the primary schools and then in the secondary schools you have your Super Games Centre and your Future Leader Programmes which are all new.
“We will be looking to get them installed in the next few years and we will also be looking at the talent academy squads side of things and reviewing where we are at to see are we going down the elitist road too much? Do we need to change that, we will be looking at where exactly we are at on that side of things.”
Cregg is excited about the potential which exists in new developments such as the Future Leaders Programme for Transition Year students.
“The Future Leaders Programme is a brilliant initiative, especially at that age group 15, 16, 17 to give them all an understanding of the values of the GAA and the way it works,” Cregg admits.
“To actually upskill them then in different areas. Going forward in years to come I think that Programme will reap huge dividends for clubs and counties around the country.”
All counties can learn from each other and implement different programmes.
Cregg is adamant that the sharing of knowledge between the western counties can lead to further improvements. “I don't know about the other provinces, but here in Connacht all five counties work really well together, we encourage the sharing of knowledge across hurling and football and all of the initiatives,” Cregg states.
“All counties can learn from each other and implement different programmes. It is not one size fits all because some counties are bigger than others and some have more rural or urban areas and so on.
“Even within a project like the Future Leaders or Super Games Centre it isn't going to be implemented exactly the same in every situation. You can always learn from people and we always encourage that.”
During the coming weeks and months Cregg will keep in close contact with the respective Games Managers in each county.
“We would be in constant contact every week through phone and email. I would envisage that we would be meeting up once every month, obviously there could be meetings in between that depending on the time of year and the different initiatives that are taking place.
"It is never a regular job, it isn't a nine to five, it depends on the time of year, what initiatives you are rolling out.
“In the counties I'd be directly working with the five Games Managers in the counties. Damien Coleman is the Director of Hurling and we have the three GPOs in the three third level colleges.
“Then you'd have the GPOs in the counties themselves. Roscommon have four, Mayo have four, Leitrim have two, Sligo have three and Galway have three as well. You have lots of people working around the province.”
While Mayo, Roscommon, and Galway are serious operators at senior level other success stories exist. Sligo schools have made a significant impact at Connacht Colleges level in the past decade, while Cregg highlights the always high interest levels in Leitrim schools as a source of encouragement.
“Leitrim is a small county, but they have a very high participation rate,” Cregg adds. “They had one of the highest participation rates in terms of Cul Camps, 46% of all national school going kids attended the camps at some stage during the summer. That is huge, it is one of the highest in the country.”
If we can get a point or two points at the weekend we are guaranteed to get back to Division One and it would be great to get back to that level.
Last summer 36% of national school children in the province attended Cul Camps, another source of encouragement. Cregg is ready to make an impact in his new job, while his return to the inter-county playing fields in the primrose and blue for Roscommon is a significant boost to Kevin McStay’s panel.
This weekend’s Allianz Football League Division Two tussle against Cork at Dr Hyde Park is next on the agenda.
“It is nice to be back involved, it is nice to be very competitive in Division Two,” Cregg says. “There is not a whole pile between a whole lot of teams. We just about got over Cavan at the weekend which was great.
“We have to get points on the board this weekend, it is great that it is in our own hands. If we can get a point or two points at the weekend we are guaranteed to get back to Division One and it would be great to get back to that level.”
Missions will always need to be accomplished so Roscommon and Connacht GAA are fortunate that Cregg is on the beat.