The two players grimace with effort as they chase the ball. Their faces are a study in concentration as each pull at the same time. There is a thud as bodies collide and a crack as hurleys clash. Mothers gasp, fathers smile approvingly, coaches roar encouragement from the sideline. The referee blows the final whistle, the players all ask 'whats the score?'. 'A draw'. Replay on Wednesday.
This is the scene at Wolfe Tones every Monday and Wednesday evening at their underage GAA academy. Designed to introduce young players to the game and to develop their skills, the Academy caters for boys between 4-10 years of age. There are three different training groups, U6, U8 and U10. Each group is run by its own dedicated qualified coaches and covers hurling and football. The skills of both games are practiced every evening and the sessions finish up with a match. It is well recognised within the club that the Academy is the first important stepping stone in player development. Indeed all of our recent Feile hurling winning team would have graduated from the Academy themselves.
The Academy is run by its own dedicated steering committee within the club structure. Chaired by Damien Regan, it also covers the provision of coaches to the local national schools. The coaches, Patsy Keyes, Barry Loughnane and Mark Regan, all prominent club players visit all schools weekly and oversee the coaching at Academy sessions. Brian Lohan and John Riordan then liaise with the schools and the coaches to ensure the smooth running of the programme and the equal promotion of the games.
This years version of the Academy began in early January in St. Caimins and attracted 50-60 children a night. When the weather improved we moved back to our own facility with U6's and U8's on the Astroturf and U10's on pitch 1. Numbers are up to 80 children a night now. These kids come from 8 local schools and many have no GAA background. And yet, after a couple of weeks they look like they have been playing the games all their lives. We are still on the lookout for more players though. So if you have never played before or haven't played for a while, don't worry. Just turn up and we will look after you. Mindful of the cost of equipment we have a limited supply of hurleys and helmets that can be used if you don't have any.
Our U8's and U10's play blitzes in both sports throughout the year against different clubs. This season started last weekend and continues on through the summer. We are working on getting all these fixtures up on our website. So check http://wolfetonesshannon.clare.gaa.ie/ for these and indeed all our fixtures and results.
An exciting development in the last week has been the establishment of a Ladies Academy Fundraising group. Led by Elaine Donnellan this group have been very active in a very short period of time. Thanks to Elaine, we can exclusively announce the hosting of a Wolfe Tones Fun Day on Sunday 5th June. Details are hush hush at the moment but I have been informed that there will be activities for babies, grannies and everyone inbetween. As soon as details are finalised we will let you know but until then just remember to keep the date in your diary.
Wolfe Tones Academy runs every Monday and Wednesday at the club grounds between 5.45 and 7pm. Note there is no Academy on Easter Monday 25th April.
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