GAA Football

Warrenpoint success story continues with coaching initiative award

Liam Howlett, coaching and games development officer with Cumann Pheadair Naofa, accepts the ‘Coaching Initiative of the Year’ award from Martina Madden of O'Neills Sportswear
Neil Loughran

THE growing Cumann Pheadair Naofa club in Warrenpoint has been one of the success stories of the Irish News School, Club & Volunteer awards in recent years – and they’re not about to stop now.

At last week’s ceremony the County Down club won the ‘Coaching Initiative of the Year’ category, with the award accepted by coaching and games development officer Liam Howlett.

The award recognised the excellence of their pre-season athletic development programme, which was co-ordinated by Howlett, ably assisted by Avril Campbell, Conor Keenan and Mike Barnett.

The aim was to give any young person wishing to play sport the best practice available in athletic skills, and was delivered across 54 sessions with 787 in attendance over the six week period.

“We operate a one-club model for football, hurling, camogie and ladies’ football, and this programme was devised to provide young people from under 10 right up to minor with basic athletic skills,” explained club secretary Anne McCormack.

“It was designed to help young people focus on skills such as running techniques, core efficiency, agility, acceleration and flexibility, as well as doing warm ups and warm downs.

“Also key was the development of the coaches, who were upskilled in the techniques being delivered to the young people.

“The onus was on us as a club to put a focus on coaching and games development in terms of participation and enjoyment because at that young age it is so important to engage young people, develop their skills and ensure there is participation for all.”

The Warrenpoint club has gone from strength to strength through the years, and now boasts 795 members, of which 425 are youth members.

Initiatives such as this show the kind of creative thinking that is going on at Cumann Pheadair Naofa, and they even went outside the world of Gaelic games to help enlighten their young charges.

“Eamonn Byrne, a two-time Commonwealth Games athlete, came along to take them through the fundamentals of Olympic weight-lifting,” continued Anne McCormack. “That’s key when they get older and when they’re going to gyms that they know exactly the key points in terms of lifting weights.

“So the programme as a whole was a great success. It built community spirit, team spirit within our coaches and it showed joined-up thinking right across the board.

“We are an urban club and with that comes all the challenges in terms of facilities and making your games attractive to the local community. We are now on our second five-year development plan and that is our roadmap, we use that strategically every year in planning ahead.

“We’re currently a division one team in senior football, our hurling is going well, camogie is doing very well, we have over 60 young girls participating from under 12 down.

“Ladies’ Gaelic football has seen significant progress – when we first started we had 30, now we have over 150 playing ladies’ football at the club. So we can see a continuous growth.

“Good planning has served us well - we have a direction and we know where we’re going.”

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