Steven Poacher

STEVEN POACHER: Practical sessions can really re-ignite that coaching passion

I RECENTLY travelled to Jordanstown for the annual Ulster Coaching Conference. A brilliant collage of coaches and speakers were assembled by Ulster GAA and provided the patrons with a wonderful action-packed day of learning.

One of the biggest attractions – and a massive improvement – in the Ulster Conference is the huge variety of practical sessions available to watch for coaches. In the past a lot of conferences have been a death by PowerPoint sort of experience.

It was not the case here as we were treated to a huge variety of practical sessions, all focusing on different aspects and themes of our game but, more importantly, it was fantastic to see the wide range of coaching styles on show.

First up on Saturday was a talk from Martin Kennedy, the national head of coach and player development. Martin is an extremely intelligent and experienced individual having previously worked with Dublin senior footballers and the Irish rugby team in the past.

After Martin’s talk, delegates had a wide variety of workshops to attend. I decided to plump for all the practical ones rather than the talk.

First up was Dominic McKinley, the former Antrim senior hurling manager, who was delivering a session on ‘Developing game sense and refining skills for talented players.’

Everything Dominic presented was based around the ball and having players at the centre of the session, empowering players to make the correct decisions under pressure. All the games Dominic presented were very transferrable to all codes, football, camogie and hurling.

Without pause, we moved to Stephen Beattie who delivered a pitch session on ‘Developing the tackle and embedding best practice with players.’

An outstanding session, Stephen delivered a huge volume of invaluable coaching nuggets, but it was his unique coaching style that caught the eye for me. The energy, passion and enthusiasm he showed throughout the hour was admirable and was a talking point on the way home in the car.

A phenomenal amount of energy and effort was pumped into it by Stephen and on a subject like tackling, that requires a lot of high-octane energy, it really added to the experience for the coaches in attendance. After a break for lunch, we were treated to a coaching masterclass from former Westmeath manager Jack Cooney, and it was clear for everyone to see why Westmeath were so successful under his stewardship.

Cooney was outstanding in his presentation which focused on ‘Turnover and transitioning from defence to attack.’ Jack broke the terminology and lingo surrounding transition play into very simplistic language for coaches, but it was his soft, placid coaching style that caught the eye and how he delivered his message. He was in complete contrast to Stephen Beattie, yet both men delivered hugely impressive presentations, which is something that goes astray when we attend these days. We are equally looking at coaching styles as much as content. As Jose Mourinho once said, “As a coach, I am not there to deliver a pass but deliver a message.”

I love attending coach education events, especially those like Saturday past that have a great line-up, brilliant themes, content and, most importantly, value for Money.

Last January I organised a couple of January Coach Education evenings here in St Joseph’s, I will be doing the same against this coming January 2023, on Friday 13th and Friday 20th. We will have John Divilly, the Galway senior football coach, delivering a session on ‘Developing Scores from ReStarts, and creating scoring opportunities through Small Sided Games.’

The following week Mark Doran, the new Clare senior football coach, will present a theme, ‘Games to break down a mass defence.’

The evening is in association with Deely Sports Science and its kindly being sponsored by Avenir, who will present a short presentation on both evenings on helping to improve performance and feedback through Hudl and Sportscode.

For more information on the evenings, contact myself on, 07779780919 or on twitter @stevie_poacher.

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