Connacht GAA's Friday Night Lights
By Cian O'Connell
Under the Super Games Friday Night Lights a successful project has been rolled out by Connacht GAA.
Over four Friday nights since the middle of December, footballers born in 2005 and 2006 from across the province have gathered at Connacht GAA`s Centre of Excellence to enjoy winter games.
More than 700 players from 48 clubs participated in the matches. Connacht GAA Games Manager Cathal Cregg is delighted by the response and is encouraged that so many youngsters have been afforded an opportunity to shine in a different and informal setting.
“That is the idea, it is really just a games opportunity for everyone to play regardless of ability,” Cregg explains. “What the competitions do, generally the best 15 will play for a club and the rest sit on the bench and then people wonder why we have dropout from sport.
“The kids come here, they play for a full hour and they go home again. Everyone gets to play for a full hour regardless of what their ability is and also they are mixed up in teams.
“With club teams a lot of the focus is based around the top three, four or five players, who pass between themselves. When they are mixed up here they don't know what the other players are like ability wise so they end up passing freely to each other.”
During the coming months Cregg is hopeful that the approach will continue to provide emerging players with more chances to play. “It is a concept that came originally from Pat Daly, the National Games Director,” Cregg adds. “It has been going on in the secondary schools for a couple of years and it has gone down pretty well with kids. This is one of the first Super Games Centres set up for clubs”.
“The plan is to expand to more locations across the provinc because last week we had over 200 players registered and 65 on a waiting list to get into it. We just don't have the lights to cope with the capacity so we hope to roll it out in five different locations on March 15th.
“We will have one location in each county with the likely locations being Scarden, Annaduff, Loughgeorge, Strokestown, and in Bekan. That isn't fully confirmed, but it is the plan.
“The whole idea around it is a bit of fun for the kids, who come to play. There is no major pressure on them, they get a chance to express themselves. It is really good for players on the periphery of club teams, it has really given them an opportunity to play.
“I would like to particularly thank Charlie Harrison, Brian Mangan and all the county coaching staff who have helped over the four events to make this initiative such a success.”