St Mary's hurling club in south Tipperary is very much looking to the future

Club launches Juvenile Coaching and Player Development Pathways

Seamus Kennedy

“St Mary’s is a club that keeps growing and improving, and reading through the strategy developed by the club it makes you excited for the future," says Seamus Kennedy

Founded in 1929, St Mary’s is the oldest hurling club in the Clonmel area. 

Since its foundation the club is honoured and excited to have been entrusted with bringing the ancient Gaelic game of hurling to the youth of Clonmel. 

With the current lockdown curtailing on-field activities over the last number of months, the club has taken advantage of the opportunity to work on mapping out a future plan for its juvenile club, focused on both coaching and player development. 

This has culminated in the launch of the new strategy Juvenile Coaching and Player Development Pathways, which is designed as a resource for all those involved in player development in the club.

The juvenile club has gone from strength to strength in recent years, with a strong focus on participation. 

The club’s new juvenile chairman Shane O’Neill explains the rationale behind the strategy.

“The purpose of this coaching and player development strategy document is to help us as a club to guide our coaches, our mentors and our parents, who all play an active role in the development of our young club hurlers,” he says. 

He says  that “maximising participation and encouraging fun and enjoyment should be at the heart and core of everything we do.”

Above: From left, Shane O’Neill, St Mary’s hurling club’s juvenile club chairman; Tipperary and St Mary’s player Seamus Kennedy and Donal Keane, the club’s coaching development officer

The goal of the strategy is to ensure a consistency of approach from coaches and ensure that children moving up through each age grade have achieved a progressive proficiency in each of the core skills of the game, resulting in high levels of enjoyment, a sense of belonging and strong player retention.

The juvenile club has recently appointed a juvenile coaching development officer, Donal Keane, whose role is to ensure that the principles of the strategy are implemented across all age grades. 

Donal says that the idea is simple, is based on central GAA publications and pathways and “if we can develop our coaches and create happier and skillful players, that will lead to better player retention and overall will lead us to having a better club all round.”

Two times All-Ireland winner Seamus Kennedy, who has played with St Mary’s all his life, is really excited about the introduction of these pathways and says “St Mary’s is a club that keeps growing and improving, and reading through the strategy developed by the club it makes you excited for the future. 

“The work that is going in at underage level for the last number of years is really paying dividends and it’s great to see the lads try to push it on even further with this plan.”

The strategy is split into two main parts, Coaching Pathways and Player Pathways, with the core elements of the coaching pathways focusing on encouraging all coaches who volunteer with the club to progress through the GAA coaching courses, to encourage an environment where coaches can learn from each other and to have the right tools available to them to deliver that coaching.

Above: Juveniles having the time of their lives at a St Mary’s hurling club Cúl camp in Clonmel Sportsfield

The player pathways look at integrating long-term development models, with the GAA’s new Gaelic Players Pathway supporting children from the nursery age of 5 right through to under 17, before they join the adult wing of the club.

St Mary’s Hurling Club and its sister club, Clonmel Commercials Gaelic football club, are always open to new players joining the club and St Mary’s looks forward to having the Sportsfield full of hopeful young hurlers soon.

Anyone interested in learning more about St Mary’s can contact the club via its social media platforms or call into the Sportsfield in Clonmel at 10am on Saturday mornings once restrictions allow, when the 5 to 11-year-olds meet, to see the fun happening and the beginning of dreams. 

Remember, start small and dream big.

For more hurling see 1959 left the greatest impression on Tipperary All-Ireland winner Tony Wall