GAA Football

Rockland GAC win Irish News Overseas Club of the Year

Tadhg Branagan from Rockland GAA, New York, is presented the award for Over Seas club of the Year at the Irish News School, Club & Volunteer Awards by Ciaran McLaughlin of Ulster GAA and Irish News editor Noel Doran.
Andy Watters

ROCKLAND GAC in Pearl River, New York is firmly focussed on nurturing and bringing through local talent at all levels and was the winner of the ‘Overseas Club of the Year’ category at this year’s Irish News School, Club and Volunteer Awards.

Dubliner Tadhg Branagan was at Wellington Park Hotel in Belfast last Friday to accept the award on the club’s behalf and he’ll have it in his luggage when he flies to the States today to begin a two-year stint as the club’s new development officer.

The St Brigid’s clubman inherited his keen interest in coaching from his dad Seamus. He was involved at underage level before progressing up the ranks at his native club and has spent the last two summers coaching in the US.

“I’ve been coaching at the club since I was a kid myself,” he explained.

“As I got older I coached the higher levels of the club and then the last couple of years I was in the US (in the Bronx and Woodlawn) for the summers coaching.

“I’ve been involved with New York GAA coaching the summer camps and the development squads. That’s how I got involved with Rockland and I applied for the job as development officer and, thankfully, I got it.”

A keen hurler, he comes from the St Brigid’s club in Dublin and intends to line out for the Rockland senior footballers. He doesn’t see himself graduating to the New York side “unless they get a hurling team” but he is determined to help produce some players who will.

“It’s a nice place, all the people are brilliant there,” he said.

“Success for me in my role at the club will be seeing the growth of kids into the adult teams at the club. They have done great work over the last two years, my predecessor started it working from the ground level up and got so many kids involved.

“They are now in schools in New York so it’s not just the Irish-American kids who are playing now, it’s American kids and we will be trying to push them from underage into the adult game.

“New York had two players on their panel for the Mayo game this month and one of the New York ladies’ seniors is playing for Sligo this year. It is trying to get more of that, they’ve got their base and it’s trying to bring them on.

“Rockland would be all-American for their adult team so they wouldn’t be bringing over people to play for them, they want American-based players.”

Branagan’s advice to coaches is simple, be creative, be persistent and patient and don’t be afraid to try new things.

“Coach as many times as you can, get out and keep working on it,” he explained.

“Build on your mistakes and don’t be afraid to try something in a training session, the kids’ reaction is the best way of seeing if it works. If they don’t like it… scrap it and go back to the drawing board and try and fix it.

“If they love it then you know it works and keep trying it.”

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