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Monaghan players helping keep stars of the future focused

Fintan Kelly (pictured) and Monaghan team-mate Miceal Bannigan will take sessions aimed at young players in the county this weekend
Neil Loughran

THERE may not be any GAA happening at the minute, but Monaghan’s county players have been helping keep the Farney’s stars of the future engaged with a series of online sessions.

The initiative was devised by Monaghan games manager Paul O’Connor, and Ballybay’s Dessie Ward has helped raise the game in recent weeks by bringing his athletic development expertise to young people across the county.

He has run weekly sessions all month, with the popularity of the programme seeing it extended for a further two weeks, while his Farney team-mates Fintan Kelly and Miceal Bannigan will also be getting involved this weekend.

Ward showed his ability to innovate during the first pandemic-enforced lockdown in 2020, borrowing a roller from a neighbour and creating a football field out the back of his house after pitches were shut.

And he feels now, with the return to play still seemingly some way off, that more creative thinking is required to keep young people exercising.

“With them not being in school, and the poor weather, it’s very easy to the mode of just sitting in front of the Playstation, do a bit of homework, but not really doing any exercise at all,” said Ward, who runs his company Breakthrough Performance out of the gym at Ballybay’s club.

“This wee initiative was set up by Paul and Monaghan coaching and games, trying to develop young GAA players in the county. It started with trying to get development squads involved but I thought we could push it out to young players throughout Monaghan.

“When I first came onto Monaghan panel at 19, I kept on picking up injuries and all that side of things is everything I’m interested in… it was helping me understand what was going on with my own body.

“So this is useful for anybody really, and it’s a good chance to get as many people involved as possible.”

Numbers have steadily increased week on week, and Ward believes interaction of any kind is crucial in these difficult times.

“That’s why we decided to get it up and running,” he said.

“Obviously there’s athletic development to be taken from it but the main thing is to get them moving and active, have a bit of craic and just bring some small bit of normality to things.

“Even for myself it’s good to have that interaction. You’d be delighted to have something to do in the evening.”

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