GAA Football

Cassidy urges Derry clubs to back radical new proposals

Adding four new district teams made up of junior and intermediate players to the senior championship, won in 2020 by Slaughtneil, is one of a number of proposals being put forward as part of a new coaching strategy for Derry GAA. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

DAMIAN Cassidy has urged clubs to back plans for a revamp of GAA structures in Derry which would see each club have their own Games Promotion Officer and new district clubs playing in the senior football championship.

Those are just two of the many forward-thinking proposals in a new coaching and development structure that has been presented to the clubs over the last week.

Cassidy headed the eight-man committee in charge of drawing up the plans. They sought guidance from, among others, Dublin CEO John Costello, Games Development Manager Ger O’Connor and Stephen O’Shaughnessy (Football Development Officer) as well as Kerry’s coaching officer, Terence O’Houlihan.

The result is a series of proposals that aim to blend Dublin’s urban expertise with Kerry’s management of rural issues in a “unique” model that serves the urban and rural strands that make up Derry GAA.

Among the proposals are:

- A full-time paid Games Promotion Officer within each club or, where clubs agree, shared

- Four new District teams made up of junior and intermediate players created to play in the senior football championship

- Similar district teams also to compete in U17 championship, with possible roll-out to younger age groups over time

- Creation of U18.5 and U20 club competitions to bridge gap from U17 to senior

- ‘Silent sidelines’ that allow for player communication only in all games up to and including U13

- Games up to U11 ‘one-touch’, meaning players can only take one bounce or solo before playing the ball

- Games at U13 ‘two-touch’, with no championship at the grade

- All players to take part in at least 50 per cent of every game up to U13

- Smaller sided games up to U13, beginning at 5-a-side (up to P5), 9-a-side (P7), and 13-a-side (U13)

- Referee academy to promote new officials under the age of 16, aided by the ‘silent sideline’ proposal

1993 All-Ireland winner Cassidy, who is also a former Derry manager and a winner of club titles in Tyrone, Antrim and Derry, says the document is aimed at improving the “quality and breadth” of players within the county.

The Bellaghy native says it is aimed specifically at clubs with the hope that the spinoff will be an increase in the number of players who are capable of stepping up to inter-county level.

“This is designed to improve the overall quality of club players that we have in Derry.

“It’s not a county strategy, it’s not meant to be, because our view is that if we improve the quality and breadth of coaching at club level, if that’s successful then the natural spinoff will be that we produce more players and better players that will naturally feed into your county team.

“It’s a document that’s meant to focus on helping the club in terms of the partnership with the county board.

“A couple of years ago the clubs met with the county board and there were suggestions that there was no plan or no strategy and no help.

“When Stephen [Barker, county chairman] and Kieran [McKeever, vice-chair] came into their roles, they were very determined the county board is seen as a partner with clubs, to help clubs.

“We feel this is an opportunity for Derry. We think it’s the future and if we don’t take the opportunity, in eight or ten years’ time we’ll be looking back and a lot of other counties will be well down the path of doing this.

“We feel we have an opportunity to be ahead of the game long-term. This is about the future and learning from the best about what’s working,” said Cassidy.

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GAA Football