Kildare planning for the future
By Cian O’Connell
Clever planning and sheer hard work ensure Kildare are relevant at underage level and the signs are encouraging for the Lilywhites.
At Bord Na Mona O’Connor Park, Tullamore on Saturday afternoon Kildare are looking to secure a fourth Leinster minor title in six years; the Under 20 team have already earned provincial glory and are busy preparing for an interesting All Ireland Final against Mayo.
Between 2004 and 2017 Kildare contested six Leinster Under 21 deciders, winning three. Kildare's last eastern triumph at that grade had been in 1992 so a level of consistency has been attained. In the coming months and years Kildare, who also won the 2018 Christy Ring Cup in hurling, hope to make further progress in both codes.
Kildare GAA Games Manager Noel Mooney spoke to GAA.ie about what is happening in the county.
Q: It has been another encouraging campaign at underage level for Kildare. From the outside looking in it appears great work is taking place looking to win a fourth Leinster minor title in six years. What would you put the success down to? Hard work and what else?
NM: We changed our structures with our development squads around 10 years ago. So the Chairman at the time gave us a blank canvas so we went away and we spoke to a good few people. The likes of Brian Murphy got involved and there has been a gradual increase with the addition of new staff over the last number of years. The East Leinster Project coming on board this year has given us a few extra staff in the county. It is a testament to the staff that are here, the GPOs and GDAs are very good, but also the work that is being done at club level too.
We are very lucky in Kildare that the clubs have bought into the coach education side of it as well, they are very good at attending courses which is brilliant for us. It has a knock on effect everywhere with the work being done in the Primary and Secondary schools, the work being done in the clubs, it is harnessing all that together and not having a them and us, everyone working together probably helps.
Q: With the coaches employed by Kildare GAA are they implementing regular coaching workshops with the clubs?
NM: There is formal education where you run your Foundation and Award One, with Leinster we have the new Turas Programme which is great. It gives more interaction in the clubs as well. The whole key is having good club people coaching because our staff can only be at certain places. The regional workshops and the new East Leinster project has helped us. We are able to tie the clubs back in to where we want to go.
The people driving our development squads and John Doyle has taken over the role of being a Director of Football and John Doran has been doing the hurling side of it, then we have Paul Divilly looking after the S and C side. We have a good link there and what we have been trying to do is build that back into the schools and clubs, that everyone can feel a part of it, that it isn't a them and us.
Q: How important is it to be competitive at Post Primary level. It is maybe a bit strange in the sense that good few current Kildare players featured in St Mary's Edenderry Hogan Cup success in 2012, but in general has the standard improved?
NM: You had Paul Cribbin, Daniel Flynn, Keith Cribbin, you had loads - Sam Doran, who is with the Under 20s this year. Kildare is a bit unique in the sense that we would feed into Edenderry, but then you'd have Kilcock where a couple of clubs from Meath are coming in there. We have a lot of secondary schools, 13 or 14 which are competitive at different levels. In some counties you just have one or two schools, we seem to have a lot more.
You have Scoil Mhuire in Clane, Patrician in Newbridge, Naas CBS, and Maynooth, who are very competitive. The fact we have a lot of schools competing - they mightn't be winning - but they are competing at a good level is helping. It widens out the base a lot more which is a big success for us.
You can see in some counties if they are so traditionally reliant on one school and if that school has a barren patch it has a negative effect everywhere. So that is what we are trying to change, we aren't just relying on one area of the county. To get our squads, clubs, and schools all working together is the big challenge.
Q: Is there a feeling within the county that the club game at underage level has improved?
NM: From a hurling perspective definitely Naas have risen the bar, that has definitely helped, they have been very competitive in Kilkenny. All the other clubs now we have to try to help them get their house in order. From a footballing perspective we have good tradition with a good club structure.
The Leinster cross boarder is helping as well, it is widening out and you are getting away from the familiarity of playing each other, you play in other counties and other clubs. That has been a plus. The structures being put in place by Leinster and Croke Park are helping creating these cross boarder games.
Q: Have the participation numbers increased for young lads playing Gaelic Football especially?
NM: Yeah, I think the Go Games have been a big help, it gives you an opportunity that everyone gets to play to a level. Then you would normally have a drop off from 12, 13, 14. For us the Go Games have been a help to get people playing, the next challenge we have within the county and within the organisation is to get the Games Programme right from 14 up because that is where we seem to be losing, that is where we need to have a look.
There is an audit and different things going on at the moment looking at the Games Programme within the county and how that can improve translating it into the cross boarders. It would definitely be our next challenge to work on our Games Programme to make sure everyone has an opportunity to play at whatever level it is.
Q: Getting the run in the qualifiers and getting into the All Ireland SFC Quarter-Final Group Phase must be a good boost. Reaching the All Ireland Under 20 Final and reaching another Leinster Minor has it generated a nice buzz?
NM: Yeah, that has been good for us too. The lads involved with the Under 20s and even the Christy Ring, the hurlers won that, some of them are working on the Cul Camps so the kids are getting to see them. Some of the coaches on the Cul Camps had Jimmy Hyland only a short three or four years ago so you have a great link now.
People always say success breeds success, but I believe the likes of Jimmy, Paul Divilly, John Doran, and John Doyle all these people that have played at a level, we have created role models within Kildare. We are trying to create that tradition that people may say hasn't been there before. The young kids seeing lads that have tasted success like Jimmy Hyland, Mark Dempsey, Aaron Martin all these lads working on the Camps, it is brilliant.
The numbers are great, they are growing again this year, so it is brilliant. In the last three to four years we have more than doubled our numbers, we have over 7,000 now and the plan would be to get 7,500 this year which would be another increase.
I have the easy part because of the staff we have, to be the captain of a very good ship. It is all the people working really hard, every one of the lads are doing that.