Where Micheal McDermott goes, success usually follows

Few managers can boast the GAA passport of Micheal McDermott. His career has taken him from the stunning Clare coastline to the rural Gaeltacht in Meath, but one thing has always been a constant; success.

2008 was McDermott’s breakthrough year onto the national stage. The previous fifteen years had been coaching at different levels and learning from the likes of John O’Keefe, while selector with the Clare footballers. After a number of successes elsewhere, he guided Kilmurry-Ibrickane to senior county glory, before a winning run that led them to the All-Ireland Club Final on the greatest stage of all.

“Reaching the Munster Final that year gave the lads a huge appetite, they were very ambitious. They really believed that they were going to beat Portlaoise in the All Ireland semi-final in 2010 and they played with a great swagger. For a small West Clare parish they really delivered and we won by nine points, reaching the All-Ireland final”

With their eyes fixed on a St. Patrick’s day showdown, his Kilmurry contingent began to prepare, but McDermott could sense something was off.

“Our standards never reached the levels of intensity that we were used to before that final and it showed in our performance”

After a brave fight in Croke Park, St. Gauls of Antrim ran out eventual winners. However, McDermott had helped bring the tight-knit community all the way to the top of club football. The journey might have been over, but that season will live long in the memory of those involved.

“It was such a wonderful journey with many fond memories. We played Tír Chonaill Gaels in the All-Ireland quarter-final over in London and the whole parish must have travelled over for the weekend. It was some craic”

The craic was wild, but on the pitch McDermott demanded the utmost from every man. The group had a goal and to achieve it was paramount that they committed whole-heartedly. Those values have accompanied him no matter where his managerial journey has taken him.

“The two most important things I look for in a team are belief and hard work and I’ve always believed that any team who is willing to work and train hard can win. I try to make every session different, I want the lads to come away from the pitch having given their best physically, but having enjoyed it too. To be successful you need to get the best performance from every cog in the wheel. Players must ask themselves how far are they willing to go”.

While balancing that incredible run with Kilmurry, the passionate manager had also taken the reigns of the Clare senior footballers. For the three years he was in charge, the Banner County banged on the door of promotion to Division 3, but each time came up short by the finest of margins. McDermott managed to navigate Clare to their first Munster final in 15 years, only to be beaten by a formidable Cork side. His tenure helped to drive on the standards of Clare football, who have since went onto reach Division 2 under Colm Collins. Even though it has only been a few years since he departed, the inter-county scene has changed dramatically.

“Things have changed hugely. When I took over in 2010, it was the first time the lads had concentrated on a dedicated S&C programme, which is now a minimum in most clubs. There’s always been very little between the likes of Tipperary, Limerick and Clare, but to beat Cork or especially Kerry, it would take a 10/10 performance”.

With that experience with Clare in the lower divisions, McDermott still maintains the belief that everything comes in cycles and that the gap between the elite and the rest will close eventually.

“People can’t see anyone beating Dublin but if you look at the other Leinster counties competing at underage; Meath, Kildare, Westmeath and even Longford & Offaly – they have been very competitive with Dublin. The greatest advantage the Dubs have is that their players live within a 5 mile radius. In most other counties, 60% of players are commuting from college, rushing to training and getting home late at night. Dublin have a very professional setup”.

Since his exploits with Clare, McDermott has managed Garycastle of Westmeath and Parnells in Dublin, but his most recent success came with a youthful Ramor United in Cavan. To those outside the camp, Ramor had little chances of challenging but McDermott instilled those core values within the squad as they went on to win the championship and contest in Ulster. However, his latest challenge has brought him to Wolfe Tones in Meath. The experienced bainisteoir can see the huge potential within their ranks, and a group of players willing to commit.

“All I ask for, any day we take to the field is to give of their best and focus on giving that 10 out of 10 performance. My playing style would be a high intensity game plan. It’s a demanding style, requiring an almost inter-county level of fitness. It’s similar to Jürgen Klopp’s game plan of recent years. I would often look to other sports, such as AFL, basketball and rugby union, there’s a lot to learn from them. Meath football demands a physicality and I almost think you have to be manly to survive! The standard is very high, any team on any given day can beat each other, they all believe they can win”

When the Meath SFC will commence is still unknown to many, but McDermott is longing to get back out on the training pitch to work with the lads. There’s no denying the Tones will be a force to be reckoned with.

“What I enjoy most from management is the training, I get so much out of each session. I have a diary where I map out every session; trying to keep each one realistic to what we are going to face over the season, whether that be a blanket defence or a target man full-forward. There’s no better feeling than getting the boots dirty, no matter what the weather is like!’

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Micheal would like to extend his thanks to each club he has managed during his managerial journey. Thanks to John Quirke Photography for the featured image.

GAA Briefing: Training bans for Cork and Down while Galvin rejects Kerry

The latest news from the GAA world on the 3rd of February 2021

From All-Ireland cheers to tier two fears - how Cork and Down dipped over a  decade - The Irish News
Credit: Seamus Loughran

Both Ronan McCarthy of Cork and Paddy Tally of Down have received suspensions from the GAA, which will prohibit them from overseeing collective training for the next twelve weeks.

The punishment comes after both managers organised a training session in recent weeks; breaching the GAA’s Covid-19 guidelines.

The Irish Examiner have also reported that the counties could be forced to concede an Allianz League fixture.

The Cork football team were filmed by a member of the public training on the beach in Youghal, which was labelled as a “team building exercise” by Ronan McCarthy.

The Down footballers gathered in Abbey CBS before they were reported to the PSNI who investigated the incident.

The GAA’s Covid advisory group has postponed the return of inter-county training for at least two weeks and until it is responsible to do so.

Relocated Galvin steps away from Wexford role
Credit: RTE Sport

Meanwhile in Kerry, former captain Paul Galvin has turned down a coaching role with Peter Keane’s backroom team for the upcoming season.

With Galvin now living in Mayo, it is believed that a combination of logistical issues and work commitments prevented him from taking up the position, despite having held positive talks with Keane.

Former U21 coach Kieran Cronin is now expected to take on the role.

Kerry will be looking to bounce back after a premature exit to last year’s championship, having suffered an agonising defeat to Cork in the Munster semi-final.

GAA Briefing: Laois confirm “Cheddar” & inter-county return is delayed

The latest news from the GAA world on the 2nd of February 2021

Cheddar' set for managerial return - HoganStand

Credit: @INPHO / Dan Sheridan

Seamus “Cheddar” Plunkett will return for his second stint as manager of the Laois senior hurling team in 2021, with his appointment being confirmed on Twitter last night.

Plunkett took charge of the Laois hurlers back in 2012 and guided them to Division 1B of the hurling league; suffering only one defeat during that league campaign. In the championship, Laois almost pulled off a shock victory over Galway in their provincial semi-final. The following year saw the O’Moore County retain their league status, before bowing out at the quarter-final stage of the All-Ireland to Clare. Plunkett resigned the following season.

Plunkett brings with him a star-studded backroom team, including former Limerick coach Donach O’Donnell, alongside Francis Forde previously selector with the Galway hurlers. David Matthews will also join Plunkett at Laois, a former Irish olympian that specialises as a running coach.

In other news, the GAA have decided to delay the return of inter-county training despite the Allianz Leagues set to commence in March. The GAA’s Covid advisory group concluded that it would be irresponsible to allow counties to begin training under the current circumstances.

The group will reconvene in just two weeks time, with the GAA hopeful the season can begin soon. The recent fall in case numbers was cited by the group as a sign that inter-county action may not be too far in the future.

The GAA also has the issue of a fixtures backlog from the interrupted 2020 season to contend with. Unfulfilled club fixtures and the ongoing minor and U20 championships are still to be played, even though this year’s games are scheduled to get underway in the next few weeks.

Many GAA teams are overtraining and failing to tailor their sessions to way  game has evolved - Independent.ie

Credit: Sportsfile / Sam Barnes

Meath’s Niall Kane on his inter-county breakthrough and living in lockdown

It’s September 2017. Niall Kane has just climbed the steps of the main stand in Pairc Tailteann to lift the Keegan Cup for the second year in a row. He’s playing the football of his life and has forged a reputation as one of the top wing-backs in the county. He is banging on the door of Andy McEntee’s Meath squad, but the call doesn’t come.

“I was waiting for the call, I always had the goal of playing for Meath on my mind. I saw lads I played with at minor, Padraic Harnan, James McEntee, and Cillian O’Sullivan all getting their chance. I had hoped I would make a natural progression to the first team after playing U21 but it didn’t happen straight away. At the time I was busy with college work so it would have been tough to balance things if I had been involved”

The following summer, his club Simonstown is knocked out of the Meath Senior Championship by eventual winners, Dunboyne. However, when one door closes, another one opens. The disappointment of bowing out at the semi-final stage is softened by the chance to join up with the Meath team for next season. A huge personal achievement, but no less than he deserves.

Without hesitation, Niall jumped at the chance. For the last number of years, he had been one of the standout performers in Meath club football. He was ready.

“That summer we were knocked out of the club championship by Dunboyne, so I had a few weeks to rest up before pre-season began. We were expected to do our own work in November before the hard training and O’Byrne Cup began. The workload was intense but I am the kind of player that loves it. I have always approached my football with the attitude of I choose to do this and that helps me to stay motivated”.

A strong mindset would be needed for Niall to hit the ground running in the league. He began practicing visualisation to help him deal with the external pressure of playing in front of bigger crowds. He started against Tipperary and kicked his first scores against Donegal. Another good performance against Armagh followed. But his breakthrough season was about to be cut short.

“I dived on a ball in the last few minutes of the Kildare game and dislocated my elbow – I tore ligaments around the elbow and ruptured a tendon. I had to get surgery on it and to this day I can’t properly do push-ups or chin-ups. That was pretty much my season over”.

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[Niall takes aim in Meath’s victory over Kildare in the Allianz League] Credit: brianmulligan.me 

However, Niall began his rehab and worked his way back into the squad for the Super 8s. His reward was an appearance against Kerry in the last group match. The final whistle of that game marked the end of his first season for the Royal County but Niall was determined to progress. His sights were firmly set on a starting jersey for next year.

“Pre-season training had started and I was going well. The physio told me to rest the hip during December and unfortunately when I went back out onto the pitch I got a small cut on my ankle. It developed into cellulitis and it spread up along my calf muscle so I couldn’t run for four weeks. This meant I was out of contention until just before the Dublin game. I had hoped to get a run before the end of the league but then obviously, the coronavirus”.

The uncertainty regarding the inter-county season has left players in limbo, but Niall is remaining positive. He won’t be found wanting when it comes to training at home. Taking a rest day is the toughest challenge he faces.

“We’re six weeks into the lockdown now. I spent the first two weeks training as normal by myself trying to replicate our training sessions with hard running and skills work. Since then I’ve had to vary the training slightly to keep things interesting. My equipment at home is limited; I have a pull-up bar, one dumbell, and a swiss ball but there’s still plenty I can do. I’m actually five days into a complete rest week and I feel myself itching to go for a run but it’s important to let the body recover”.

https://twitter.com/NiallKane3/status/1250706989736505344

While also keeping in shape, Niall is putting this spare time to good use. His room at home is covered in the lines from an Irish essay he’s trying to learn. It’s about a Meath minor hurler and the sacrifices he makes to succeed. He is not decorating his walls with Irish literature for fun though! He was planning to re-sit the subject in this year’s Leaving Cert as part of his entry requirements for a teaching course.

“I was studying like mad for the few weeks before the Irish Oral, so I was delighted when full marks were awarded to every student! It’s definitely hard to stay motivated when you don’t know when the exams are going to take place. I feel for the students who are taking seven, eight subjects, it must be very stressful”. 

Despite the inconvenience of quarantine restrictions, Niall can see the positive effects the measures are having. The coronavirus has impacted our lives in so many ways, but one positive of the lockdown is the much-needed respite for the environment, and it’s something Niall is acutely aware of.

“I always let the grass and wildflowers grow in my garden; the best way to regenerate the eco-system is by starting with the insects. With the lockdown, there are fewer cars on the roads, I’ve only driven mine once in the last three weeks! I just try my best to do my bit for the planet”.

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[Niall Kane in action against Dublin in the O’Byrne Cup] Credit: brianmulligan.me

As for the future, Niall is still only 24 and has plenty of years left in a Meath jersey. One thing is for sure – he’ll have no regrets.