GDA Games Manager Kevin O Callaghan

KOC INTERVIEW WITH CORK GAA GAMES MANAGER Kevin O Callaghan

Kevin O Callaghan is Games Manager with Cork GAA. The primary function of this role is to implement the Cork Coaching Committees and Munster GAA policies in Cork to help increase participation in gaelic games and to optimise playing standards through direct coaching and the education of coaches working at grass roots. The wide ranging role involes overseeing initiatives at club, primary schools, post primary schools and development squads levels.He oversees and coordinates the work of six Games Development Administrators and one GPO in Cork City and County.
Kevin who hails from the Kilshannig Club in North Cork is involved in Cork games development circles since 2007 working on a schools coaching scheme before moving in to a GDA role and the games managers role in 2009. He is very active in his home club and region and is currently Coaching Officer in Kilshannig and has coached virtually all teams in his club in the last 10 years. This combined with his professional role means he is well placed to drive Cork GAA games development forward.

So what changes/impacts have been created in Cork GAA during O Callaghans tenure? Starting at the very bottom we have improved penetration dramatically at Primary Schools level with 100 clubs now providing coaching hours to their local schools. This was at 50 clubs only 4 years ago. Cul Camps have grown from 6,500 children to 13,000 in 6 years. Our blitz programme for u8 , u9 & u10s has grown to involve 10,000 children in just 3 years which has received national recognition as a model of best practice by the Irish Sports Council.

The clubs are at the centre of all activites and the GDA’s role is to support the club. To facilitate this we introduced an accreditation scheme to recognise clubs who were engaging in coaching best practice and to help clubs looking for direction to measure themselves against carefully thought out criteria.

The LEE Flag Scheme as it was known in 2013-2014 has now been reinvented under Benchmarking Vision 20/20. Clubs are challenged to perform in Primary Schools, Child and Youth areas. The 3 areas are to be achieved by all clubs by 2020. O Callaghan hopes to assist clubs in reaching these targets by having the GDA’s to visit clubs on a regular basis and liaising with the key club person on coaching ie the Coaching Officer.
A key element underpinning all initiatives is that of coach education. Rebel Óg Coaching has trained foundation level coaches and Award One coaches in the last 3 years. We have coached more than any other county and helps to ensure a minimum standard of coaching in our system. The formal courses are backed up by workshops (within clubs by GDA’s and Regional Sessions performed by celebrity coaches).

We have now trained up over 250 primary school teachers through GAA Teacher Summer Courses in 4 years with 2015 being our most succeful year to date having 75 teachers undertake courses, again, the highest number from any county in the country. While all these initiatives are not major in their own right, having 200 teachers now working at a higer level on the ground could impact on over 5,000 children. If you combine this with our Cul Camps, Monster Blitz Programmes, and our education of club coaches, you start to see a major influence on games development from our Rebel Og Coaching team on the ground

Moving up the line, our GDA’s are tasked with organising first and second year blitzes in our Post Primary Scgools to help increase participation. We have seen 1,200 boys participate in this initiative in 2015 while we also have an u 13 academy programme running throughout the summer in each GDA region which is covering 1,500 players. O Callaghan plays a key role in the day to day running of the Regional and County Development Squads along with Kevin O Donovan Coaching Officer.

Challenges of the role?

The role is very diverse and this is the biggest challenge. A day could involve solving a club structure issue, a primary schools coaching issue, a first aid issue for a development squad to writing reports for an upcoming initiative. There are a lot of long hours, meetings and planning. Though O Callaghan is no longer on the coal face in dealing with clubs etc he stilll derives enjoyment from the job and on days when you see major progress on the ground, it can be very rewarding.O Callaghan is really upbeat about the future for Cork GAA and says that there has never been so much quality work going in to player & coach development. He says that it is only a matter of time before Cork start to become the benchmark at County level once again in both codes.