GWEEDORE CELTIC recently established a new youth academy - one that the club hopes will foster a bright new generation of stars in the west of the county.
The An Screaban club have emerged as one of the most successful sides in the Donegal League in recent seasons, with three Brian McCormick Cups and one league title achieved in the past three years.
The club’s facilities, located in Derrybeg, are as good as any in the county and certainly their pitch is well regarded as probably the best in the Donegal League.
So, with the infrastructures in place, the club have taken the next step in trying to harness the next generation with a philosophy very much centred on technique and tactical awareness, rather than the detrimental “winning at all costs” mentality.
The academy is headed up by first-team player Shane Barr, who is recovering from cruciate ligament reconstruction, alongside 21 other coaches, accommodates players from the ages of six right up to 17. It received an official launch on July 18, during the recent visit of the FAI to Donegal, when the governing body’s CEO John Delaney and Ray Houghton cut the ribbon to mark the start of a prosperous new era for the club.
“The main aim of the Gweedore Celtic FC Youth Academy is to develop the players and enable them to fulfil their potential,” Barr said. “We recognise the importance of player development as well as making this experience as fun as possible, while also promoting the physical activity aspect to help boys and girls achieve the recommended national guidelines.
“We also recognise the huge emphasis that has been placed on ‘winning at all cost’ mentality in the past throughout the country, something that has hindered individuals from developing their skills and techniques, as well as tactical knowledge, to their full potential.
“Our philosophy is that we would rather develop and improve all players through our training and games, as oppose to preparing in a certain way to just win matches and put player development to the side.
“Winning is great but we would get more success in seeing all our players improve and development which will be beneficial further down the road, rather than just focusing on your few key players who you feel can win you matches. That’s not our plan.
“Within the wide panel of coaching staff this philosophy the Youth Academy philosophy that will be implemented across the board at all age groups and will be adhered to.”
Barr, who is currently completing the Uefa licence in Dublin, emphasised that the coaching being made available to the young players in the area will be of a very high standard, enabling them to develop their skills and attributes from a very young age.
“After a lot of hard work, we are glad to announce that at present we have 21 coaches, four of whom are goalkeeping coaches, involved in the academy,” he said.
“We recognise that in order to give the players a better opportunity in the game, the standard of coaching has to be of a high quality and that is an area of the academy which we are glad to focus on.
“Over half of these are currently on the FAI coaching pathway which consists of various courses, while the rest of our coaching staff, mostly ex-players, have begun their coach education phase one.”
As well as the coaching staff within the academy, there are also various different coaching events being negotiated at present and planned throughout the year for all age groups.
The academy welcomed a Uefa Pro Licence Coach, and also works as Uefa Consultant throughout Europe. He has past employment with professional English Premier League clubs, including Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United. The event occurred during the Development School, which saw a re-visit from John Delaney that was a great testament to the work being done at Gweedore Celtic FC Youth Academy.
Other coaching events are being negotiated at present including various overseas coaching workshops and events, and will be announced on our Facebook page – “Gweedore Celtic FC Youth Academy” and the club’s general Facebook “Gweedore Celtic FC” very shortly.
“We will be running events in the near future to give our players a chance to be coached by one of the best in the game,” Barr added. “The coaching visit from Austin Speight who is ‘Coerver Coaching’ (Director of Ireland) was very beneficial for the players.
“The enthusiasm the players displayed during the session was second to none, which was a reflection on the quality of the coaching they recieved. The academy coaches also completed a two-day course with Coerver Coaching as part of the academy’s coach education, which as stated above is crucial in our players development. We will be announcing other coaching events very soon in both the media and facebook.”
In terms of the running of the academy, the people in the area have been of great assistance and see this as a great opportunity for the kids in the area. “We can never have enough help, between the kitchen area and helping out with sandwiches and tea, to washing kits after matches, and it’s great that the community have come together and are helping out. everyone is welcome, Maith Sibh,” Barr added.
On additional to this, Coerver Coaching are locating one of their performance centres at the An Screaban facility, which will cater for boys and girls aged between six and 15 years.
Coerver Coaching are a worldwide coaching organisation who work with many different pro clubs, including Real Madrid FC, Newcastle United and Stoke City.
“This is a great opportunity for players in the county to get coaching of this quality, which will benefit all their respective clubs as they play their games,” Barr said.
“To our knowledge it will run one night a week, and all players receive adidas coerver kit and football included in the cost. I recently attended a course ran by Coerver Coaching UK and I must say their coaching style and philosophy is very effective.
“Whoever we cannot take any credit for the running of this performance academy, apart from providing the facility, as it is completely separate to our Youth Academy, and therefore is open to all players from all clubs.”