Wicklow eager to improve further
By Cian O’Connell
Small, but important and encouraging signs have been available in recent months for Wicklow.
The Allianz Hurling League Division 2B triumph mattered supplying a drop of optimism ahead of the summer, while the underage game is also beginning to stir.
Undoubtedly the remainder of 2019 will bring various challenges at every level, but Philip Campion, a Games Development Administrator in the county, is adamant that Wicklow can develop further.
Campion, a Kilkenny native, has been struck by the willingness of people throughout Wicklow to assist and a couple of Academy days during the Easter Holidays promise to be beneficial.
“Johnny Tallon and myself look after the hurling,” Campion explains. “Johnny is there a couple of years before me, I'm only there for roughly a year. Between us we have doubled as a team, Johnny was struggling trying to get around everywhere in Wicklow when he was on his own.
“My own involvement is that I look after the east side of the county, he looks after the west and south. The idea of the Academy Camp is to try to bring in the Under 13s to try to get them in the frame of mind going forward into Under 14. So they are getting into the habit of coming to a big training facility.
“They get workshops, on pitch coaching improving their skills which is all done between Johnny Tallon and myself.”
Campion believes that Wicklow are improving stressing that the Celtic Challenge offers youngsters an opportunity to compete in a structured programme against teams of a similar standing.
“Underage wise I think we are making strides,” Campion comments. “For example we had an indoor tournament for first years and this year we had nine teams entering.
“Before you were looking at maybe four or five teams entering it. The interest in hurling is growing specifically at the younger ages especially in first and second year in secondary schools.
“At minor level Johnny and myself are looking after the Celtic Challenge teams. For the first time we have two teams, a blue and a gold team, entered this year.
“The Under 15s have two teams, the 14s have a very good underage team, the Under 13s don't have many competitive games, it is more about getting them into the mindset that they will be there or thereabouts for the Under 14 team the following year.
“We have 42 players between the two panels in the Celtic Challenge. That is absolutely unheard of and it gives them an opportunity to play at a high level.
“The best thing about the Celtic Challenge is they aren't playing teams a couple of steps ahead, it is teams at their own level so it is competitive for themselves. It is a proper opportunity to play against lads their own level.”
Club and school visits are on Campion’s daily agenda with the TURAS Coaching Programme attracting significant interest.
“Our school visits are throughout the day when we go in to develop the skills of the game,” Campion states. “We might run some leagues in schools. Then at night because Coach Education is a big thing we are doing TURAS workshops at the moment which leads to two visits straightaway.
“We go into the clubs to help the coaches, to develop the coaches so the players are getting an extra bit and a high level of coaching. It helps us work with the coaches rather than us going down doing one session and leaving again. We are going down to take a session for a bit and sit back for the second to help them improve themselves.
“It might be just a simple thing to have a note in your pocket or something to help regarding communication. It sets them up going out for the year that they can be more confident in themselves coaching rather than being taken aback by looking at a big open pitch, trying to decide what they will do with Under 7s or Under 14s right on that day.”
During his time in WIT Campion thoroughly enjoyed an internship stint working with Kilkenny GAA. Following that spell Campion’s mission was to become a full-time GAA coach.
“I did a four year Sports Coaching and Performance course down in Waterford,” Campion states. “I was in the second year of it so it is a new enough course. I was absolutely steeped, though, because the third year of the course was a full internship.
“I'm a Kilkenny man myself and I was lucky enough to get my internship with Kilkenny GAA. I learned my trade with Sean Kelly, Brian Ryan, James Maher, they gave me a link with Leinster.
“Throughout that year I learned so much and that I wanted a place in the GAA to become a full-time coach. The fourth year then was made up of a thesis.
“Between the graduation and getting a job it was only a few months. The different things that are being done in the GAA, how we should go about coaching in the schools, they essentially showed me the whole ropes of the job and I couldn't have asked for better guys.”
Just over a year with Wicklow Campion stresses that a real passion exists for hurling in pockets of the Garden county. "It is absolutely brilliant to see that the interest is there," Campion says.
"That is 99% of the job because it is easy to work with people when they have an interest. Other people might be struggling at club level, they are crying out for help which is brilliant to see because you can try to help them.
"Judging by the interest at the moment Wicklow can only go up and it won't take too long the way we are trying to drive it on.”