New Wicklow boss full of praise for his charges
NEW Wicklow ladies boss James Kelly says that any manager who learned of the commitment of the Garden County players and who still didn’t want to take the job would ‘need to have their head examined’.
Kelly, a Laois native, said that when he heard that the Wicklow panel had returned to S&C training for five weeks without a manager at the helm that any thoughts of a year out of management were blown away and that he had to be involved with such a promising outfit.
‘When you hear about a group of girls going back to the gym without a manager for five weeks with the S&C team you have to think ‘there’s dedication there’. Any manager to hear that and to look and go ‘no, I don’t want it’, they need to have their head examined,’ said Kelly.
‘From my point of view, that was the moment of realisation that, ‘right, we’re going back to do something next year’. I was kind of happy taking the year out, but when you hear something like that where there are players so driven, wow. That’s something you want to be part of.
‘It’s something that you try to achieve with a group of players when you go in first, to make them self-sufficient. They are self-sufficient. They wanted to go back in. I wanted to be involved with it straight away.
‘We played Baltinglass in 2015, I was with Ratheniska. You could see the absolute skill levels that were there.
‘We played Tinahely the same year in the Leinster quarter-final, lucky to get out by the skin of our teeth, and the Tinahely girls don’t like me mentioning that inside, but we’ll throw it up every now and then just for a bit of a laugh,’ added Kelly, who brought the Laois Minor ladies footballers to an All-Ireland crown in 2012.
James Kelly was speaking to the Wicklow People last Sunday morning in Carlow ahead of his side’s first competitive outing, a practice match against Laois in the O’Hanrahan’s GAA Club.
The Ballinakill native explained that his background in the GAA was primarily in the men‘s side of things at the beginning when he took the job of a GDA with Laois GAA in 2012.
‘My background was primarily with the male side of things first. I started off in 2012 as a games development officer with Laois GAA. I had a great term there for five years. I was involved with schools and the usual things that GDAs like Paul Garrigan and Hugh Kenny are involved with in Wicklow.
‘I would have known the guys (Wicklow GDAs) through that and that would have opened by eyes to a bit of what Wicklow were at as well, which was great stuff, especially in the ladies (football) sense because Paul (Garrigan) was over Baltinglass and we’d have been organising practice matches when I was with Ratheniska.
‘I was involved with Ratheniska in 2015/16. The big thing was to go in and win a county championship. We came up against very tough opposition in Graiguecullen. We played them three times of the year. Luckily enough we came out by the skin of our teeth in the county final, winning by a point. That would be the start of my ladies (career).
‘I would have won an All-Ireland with Laois in 2012, the Minors. It was an absolute privilege to be involved with it. Pat O’Sullivan, originating from Kerry, dragged me in and asked me to give a hand and we went in with the goal of winning a Leinster. We got the Leinster. Look, we got on the road to the All-Ireland, bet Monaghan in an All-Irland semi-final and bet Clare in an All-Ireland final in Ennis. That would have been the start of my tenure as manager in ladies football.
‘I was involved with Ballyroan ladies in 2017. I’ve had a nice introduction to ladies football and I’ve had a great coach education platform put beside me by Laois GAA that I’ve been able to culture my education in that sense. And, to be honest with you, I have to take my hat off to Laois GAA, Ratheniska and Ballyroan, because anything I’ve ever asked for in terms of education purposes and equipment and things like that. I have to give them a shout out. I have to say fair play. Anything I’ve ever asked for they’ve always given me,’ he added.
After last year’s throroughly enjoyable league, Leinster and All-Ireland campaigns for the Wicklow ladies, are there many changes to the panel in terms of players coming or going?
‘We’ve looked for a few players to come in, some great talent on show (in Wicklow). What we want to do is to add to that group of players that are there already. We want to create competition for places. We have to be driving on, whether you’re 14 or 15 on the panel you havetobedrivenonby16or17, that number of player, and they have to be driven on by 20 and 21. There has to be competition for places. Without that we are not going to be successful. My job is to increase the level of competition between players. The players are there. We just have to look and see what we can do with them.
‘We’ve a couple of players taking some time out at the minute and it’s been ok, we’re ok with that. We need to look in the next couple of weeks as to when they’re coming back. Football is like anything, it’s like playing in a band. It requires rhythm, and if you don’t have the rhythm it’s very hard for us to look at you for selection, so we need to look with those players when they want to be selected because for the simple reason just arriving back is not going to work,’ he added.
With Wicklow securing league promotion in 2018 and getting to the Leinster Intermediate final where they fell to a very strong Laois side, how does Kelly rate their chances of progression in the higher league and overall.
‘I think they’re very, very capable. I’ve done a couple of ball sessions with them. They are grasping all the ideas we throw at them. The work rate is phenomenal in training. You see players coming and they’re just mad for road, they want to be involved, they want to be winning that final ball, they want to be turning it over, they want the best for Wicklow and that involves putting everything on the line in training. Our training sessions are as hard as a game.
‘The girls want, we want, I want, to maintain the Division 3 standard. We’ve a number of goals during the year, we’ve short, medium and long-term goals, I’m not going to throw them at you. Goal number one is we want to maintain that standard in the league. The league (Division 3) is coming thick and fast but we’ll embrace it and we’ll enjoy it.
‘They’re a great group of girls to be around. In the three weeks I’ve been in it’s been an enjoyable experience. They are incredible. The attitude, the grasp of ideas, how quick they grasp the ideas. We’re not here to rebuild a new building. We’re here to turn a few screws, and to make things a little bit more structurally sound. there was great work done by Mick O’Rourke last year and we just want to build upon that,’ he said.
From his experience in such a short time we wondered if he felt players from counties like Wicklow were not receiving enough support and coverage for their efforts
‘Honestly? 100 per cent. These girls were in Ballinakill on Friday night. I’d say some of them were sick, different things, they all trained.
‘We train three times a week and for some of those players it’s an hour and hour and a half drive to get there. The level of commitment they give is second to none. We can turn around and say this or that or the other, this group of players for the commitment slevel they give, they probably don’t get the recognition they deserve.
‘I’m not saying get out and support them, people will make up their own mind on that when they see what we’re doing, and hopefully they can get out and get some support when we hit those targets,’ he added.
John Buggy, Shay Dunne, James Kelly, Emer Miley and Mick Kavanagh in O’Hanrahan’s GAA Club in Carlow last Sunday.