Jamie Wall continues to enjoy Fitzgibbon journey
*By Cian O'Connell *
“My favourite part is helping lads that you see a bit of yourself in,” Jamie Wall says about his already flourishing coaching career.
Steering Mary Immaculate to Fitzgibbon glory last February was a real achievement. A selector for the previous campaign, Wall ensured the Mary I flag remained at the summit of the third level hurling game.
That was an important feat, but Wall’s purpose is to assist a new crop of hurlers. There is no disputing or denying the bond that exists both sporting and social in Mary I.
“You were in the exact same college, in the same course only three or four years ago,” Wall explains.
“You are navigating the same problems they are and if you can help them along they will be better hurlers in the finish, but they will also become better lads, get better degrees, be better teachers, and hopefully continue that positive thinking with someone else down the line.”
Wall has been forced to deal with demanding obstacles in recent years, but hurling and managing has brought excitement.
On the eve of another Fitzgibbon campaign, Wall is also looking forward to managing the Cork Under 15s during the year.
Satisfaction is located in the journey. “I do really enjoy it,” Wall admits. “The side I enjoy the most is quite possibly away from the hurling field.
It can help guys to manage their time, manage their lives, to get into managing themselves.
“When you get to matchday realistically your job is done. You have either done it well or you haven't. The side of it I enjoy the most is dealing with young fellas like Aaron Gillane, Cian Lynch, Luke Meade, Darren Browne, I could mention 15 more and the Freshers aswell.
“Trying to be a positive influence on them. In a hurling sense, but also trying to make sure that this guy is minding himself, that he isn't putting himself at risk of a massive injury, that this guy knows that he can come to me with a personal or college issue or if they are under pressure.
“Having gone through Mary I myself I know the ins and outs of the courses. I had the benefit of doing a part BA, part B Ed programme which is now gone. I understand both sets of lads in terms of the projects. The side I enjoy the most is managing the guys and helping them manage themselves, it is helping them along the path.”
Higher Education GAA is loaded with dynamic and heroic figures maintaining teams and, crucially, dreams too.
“The bottom line is this is third level GAA, it is a massive thing, it is huge,” Wall says. “Socially it is absolutely huge, my best friends are lads I played football and hurling with in Mary I. They are my best friends to this day and it will be the same for all of these guys.
“Third level GAA is so important for that. It is hugely important in its own right because the competitions are so storied and historical and so worth winning. What is huge and the vast majority of people do get it right, it is third level GAA, they are student GAA players.”
That is pivotal according to Wall. “The student part comes first, it has to come first always,” Wall adds. “If we lose sight of that we are doing them no favours because we are putting them into bubbles that when the inter-county game goes they aren't equipped to deal with life thereafter. It is something I would feel strongly about. Yeah, we will try our best to win a Fitzgibbon.
“We will train hard when it is appropriate, we will do our best in these games, we will prepare perfectly, but these guys need to be 21 year old College students. They need to experience the student life, the social side of things which is massively important.
I feel strongly about this, if you come out of college with four Fitzgibbon medals and don't have a piece of paper with your name on it for a degree unfortunately the Fitzgibbon medals come second to that.
“They need to experience and successfully negotiate exams, assignments, projects and all the things that come with moving out of home. I think what the Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cup, not deliberately, but they provide a huge support system for these guys for these things.”
A helpful environment is created, relationships matter. It is nice to accumulate silverware, but the education aspect shouldn’t be underestimated.
“In terms of us you are looking at guys doing in Teaching Practice,” Wall says. “You are in second year like Tom Monaghan or Luke Meade and Richie English is in fourth year and he is a Teaching Practice student and you can say 'I'm having a problem with this or that' and he can say 'listen I did a lesson this, have a look at it, see what you can take from it'.
“That is the case with every college, those things are massive for young lads. I feel strongly about this, if you come out of college with four Fitzgibbon medals and don't have a piece of paper with your name on it for a degree unfortunately the Fitzgibbon medals come second to that. As important as it is and we do stress that, it is more important they come out with their degree.
“What the GAA in college does is it helps, if done right it can be a huge help in the right direction because it gives guys a focus, a support system, it gives guys a network and a release. For those reasons it is so hugely important and it helps us to not lose sight of the fact that they are students.
“It gives us constant dealing and interaction with these guys so they can say 'I have this on' and you say 'that is hugely important, skip training tonight'. It can help guys to manage their time, manage their lives, to get into managing themselves.”
It is an approach that has served Wall well thus far. He points to the fact that the Bachelor of Education course at Mary I is now four years as one of the chief reasons why they are now contenders rather than simply competitive. “The goal for us now is to try to stay there,” Wall acknowledges.
What does the future hold training teams wise for Wall? “I wouldn't rule anything out, I'm getting involved with the Cork Under 15s as manager, that is a couple of years worth of a project.
“It is something I'm really looking forward to, cutting my teeth at that level. I'm under no illusions that I have an awful amount to learn at this thing. I'm very much a rookie. Last year went well for us, we got the rub of the green.”
The mission of trying to improve a budding Cork underage team is one Wall wants to accomplish. “Exactly, it is a project, it is something you'd learn an awful lot from. Last year I learned an awful lot, this year I learned an awful lot.
“The day you think you have nothing left to learn is the day you should pack it in, go away and leave it alone. The game is always evolving, I think taking the 15s next year is nice, it isn't a huge time commitment, it is something I'm really looking forward to.
If you want to do something well you have to want to do it.
“They are a very nice team to be involved with, dealing with young fellas, helping them along. Obviously I'm a teacher by trade so that side of it is something that interests me massively.
“Rather than teaching Maths, English, and Irish I'd be teaching something I feel far more passionately about which is hurling.”
Wall, though, will only take a team if it is suitable. “As to a club team or anything like that down the line, I'd like to think I have been very consistent in the sense that I've always said there is two reasons I'll do something. If it excites me or if it motivates me.
“I went to America last summer because it excited me, it motivated me to take on something different, to see what I could learn over there. It was a different vibe to being at home. I experienced a bit of the world. Being part of the Cork 15s and being part of Cork hurling going forward is something that massively motivates me.
“Being part of Mary I is something that motivates me, like Cork being my county, Mary I is almost like my club at home - my college, club, county. If the right thing was to come along clubwise, absolutely I wouldn't turn it down.
“I'd certainly be open to anything, but by the same token I don't want to be somebody that goes from A to B to C to D and back again - the circuit as it is called, doing it for the sake of doing it.
“If you want to do something well you have to want to do it. I'm very open to anything, but I wouldn't go jumping head first into it if I didn't feel I couldn't develop a passion for it.”
For the next two months Wall’s focus will be on Mary I; his drive and desire for that particular cause burns as strongly as ever.