Steven Poacher

STEVEN POACHER: The separation game

LAST Friday evening in our school, St Joseph’s Newry, hosted the second of our January coach education evenings, with Clare Senior Football Coach Mark Doran delivering a brilliant session on using games to break down a crowded defence.

There was 150 coaches at it and the previous week there was over 200 coaches there to witness John Divilly giving a masterclass in coaching, his theme all about launching attacks from restarts and small sided games to create better decision making in front of goal.

This time of year is an important time to upskill as a coach and a brilliant opportunity for clubs to work on upskilling their coaches whether that be through club run coach education opportunities or through evenings like we organised ourselves last Friday. The delegates who travelled from as far away as Killarney right up the length and breadth of the country were certainly not disappointed and with two brilliant presentations on the evening from Mark McAreavey of Avenir Sports it certainly added to an informative fuelled evening.

On Friday past Mark’s session was intriguing. The pitch, which was quite firm due to the cold weather, actually worked in favour of the session as it allowed Mark more contact time with the coaches on the evening as we pulled back the intensity and volume of games for the players on the evening who were Benny Coulter’s Down minor panel. Mark ran five games, all with the focus of trying to unlock a deep lying defence and create space and scoring chances in your forward line.

Games included a break out game that was encouraging players to get ahead of the ball at pace and in numbers, with width and flexibility in how they attacked and then slowing down the decision making to make match winning decisions in the final third. The posting shooting game was extremely interesting, it focused on forwards posting their runs from static positions, hoping that the late hard run from various angles would help unlock a plus one or two defence. Breaking out from deep game was also enjoyable and started from deep inside your own half, simulating a deep turnover with a focus on moving the ball at pace, with numbers, using decoy runs, using a pivot and maybe a rebound pass to release an out ball.

The most intriguing game of the night though and was coupled with Mark giving a great coaching insight into his own experience at inter-county level with this game was the separation game. Mark talked about the effectiveness of this coaching ploy where you create separation from your marquee forwards and their taggers.

So Kerry for example, would get Jack Barry to sprint towards Seanie Ó Sé’s marker or Clifford’s and use his body in a screening type movement and allow that three or four yards of space for the forward to get a shot off. Interesting basketball type coaching strategy that no doubt the Basketball background of Mike Quirke the Kerry coach would be utilising.

At the All-Ireland Club final on Sunday, it was intriguing to see the offensive plays and patterns of both teams and the supremely high level of preparation and organisation both teams put into their games, from restart strategies both on kick outs and defending them, the defensive match ups, where Ryan Dougan give an exhibition of disciplined defending on Mannion, to the constant probing, cut runs, decoy runs of both forward lines.

It was superb to watch, and just unfortunate how the game ended and the events that have come as a result of the substitution error.

Whatever the outcome of the appeal, one thing is for sure, from a coaching perspective we are seeing club teams at level now being exposed to a seriously high level of coaching and it can only be good for the game.

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW