‘They’re in­cred­i­ble’

New Wick­low boss full of praise for his charges

Wicklow People - - SPORT - BREN­DAN LAWRENCE

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.

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