Patrick Morrison

PATRICK MORRISON: Should I stay or should I go?

By Patrick Morrison

THIS week, I was invited onto the Gaelic Life podcast ‘Gaelic Lives.’ The show was hosted by Michael McMullan and also involved ex-Derry player Gerard O’Kane, both of this stable.

We mainly discussed the NFL finals that involved Ulster teams while also discussing the phenomenon of warm weather training camps and their pros and cons for teams preparing for championship.

We also discussed the area of the newest tactic, the fly goalie. We conversed from its early inceptions right up to the present day, to why teams want to use this tactic and also discussed should teams employ this tactic.

I concluded that the tactic was here to stay and that it would develop further to become the ‘Last Man Back’ rule we used to play as kids. This means that all defenders, if not all players, will require some form of goalkeeping training as they could find themselves between the sticks to cover the goalkeeper before they return to their goal.

What does this mean then for those young goalkeepers who are currently learning their trade in the position? I am sure there are thousands of them up and down the country forcing themselves to play this way simply because they see our elite goalkeepers playing in this way.

My answer to all of these young goalkeepers, at every age group is simple. Stop!

To those goalkeepers at the younger end of the age scale, I say this – focus on your goalkeeping skills especially those that involve your movement and agility. These are the skills that are going to be far more valuable to you as you develop and they are more difficult to bed into your game the older you get. It will also be important for you to work on communication skills as well as the theory side of your game as having a strong set of goalkeeping principles will make your mentally more resilient.

For goalkeepers who are 16 plus, I would advise them to begin turning the textbook skills they have learnt up to this stage into performance skills they can use during competitive games.

It will also be important for these goalkeepers to also grow confidence in their ability.

Prioritise your situation based skills like dealing with closing attackers in one v ones and work hard at your kicking because it is one of the skills that you will use the most.

Now I am not telling these young goalkeepers that they can never become a fly goalie but what I am highlighting to them is the fact that their goalkeeping skills are far more important in terms of their development, before they begin to focus on playing the position on the goalkeeping spectrum (see my article of same name).

Never forget that you are a goalkeeper first and because of this your goalkeeping skills should be your main focus in training and in competitive games. It is your goalkeeping skills that need to be perfected in your developmental stages of your career because as a goalkeeper these will be tested a lot more than you want to come out and join the play.

Once you have developed your goalkeeping skills to a high standard for your level, then you can begin to focus on becoming a fly goalie. Do not neglect your goalkeeping performance in aid of becoming an outfield goalkeeper. You will only be setting yourself up for disaster that could be very damaging in more ways than one.

I was working with a young goalkeeper last season who told me the main area they wanted to improve was being able to come out and join the play. Before accepting their request I asked them two questions, the same two questions I ask all keepers who want to play this tactic. 1) Are you comfortable coming out of your goal? 2) Why do you want to do this?

Their answers were that he was comfortable coming out if in possession but wanted to move the ball on as quickly as possible so they could return to their goal. And they wanted to become a fly goalie because the other goalie in the team gets to play more because they can come out and play as a fly goalie.

As we discussed this further they also explained that the team concedes more goals whenever the other goalkeeper is in goal not just because they play outfield more but because their goalkeeping ability is lower than this young goalkeeper.

I explained to them that their problem was not with their ability and especially not with their ability to play fly goalie or not. The problem they had was with their coach who obviously could not see he was playing his goalkeepers disproportionately in regard to game time and was possibly oblivious to the fact that one goalkeeper concedes more than the other.

My advice was simple. We discussed where exactly their comfortable range was to come out with the ball and that is the limit to which we worked on their fly goalie tactic. They were comfortable coming to their own 45-metre line before wanting to move the ball on, so that is what we decided would be their limit.

I explained to the young goalkeeper also that their time would be better spent improving other goalkeeping areas of their game rather than pursuing an area that was probably going to be more detrimental to their performance than beneficial.

By trying to play like the other ‘keeper, they were setting themselves up for a fall. We decided to work on the goalkeeping areas they were weaker in and coming out to their own 45-metre before moving the ball on.

The point I am trying to make to all goalkeepers and especially coaches who may be reading this is simple. Stop forcing your goalkeepers to play a tactic that they may not be comfortable playing.

If they are comfortable then great, work away. But, if your goalkeeper is not comfortable coming outfield or only comfortable coming out to a certain point then please, please stop forcing them to go any further. You are setting them and yourself up for disaster.

I am a massive advocate for the fly goalie tactic but only when it has been employed in the correct manner and when using a goalkeeper who is comfortable playing in this way and has also trained extensively in the use of this tactic both individually and with the team as a whole.

Email: Facebook: @MSoG11Twitter: @MorSchGk

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