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Irish Grassroots Football

All in a weekend’s work for Saoirse Noonan!!

Lots of discussion on early specialisation the last few weeks. One thing for certain in Ireland, is Girls are more likely to play multi-sport for longer than boys as it seems to be accepted more across codes. Boys it seems, are more pressurised to have to specialise earlier than girls. If you’ve ever watched girls sport the players all seem a lot more relaxed compared to boys, (Just my view, having coached and watched both play) there isn’t as much ‘win at all cost’ atmosphere that you see so much in the boys game. The pressure from adults plays a huge factor in how long children can participate in multi-sport games.

Multi-sport participation has huge benefits, far more than if child was to specialise. Keeps children interested, prevents injury Using the same muscles repeatedly for a long time can lead to serious injury. By playing different sports, players stress different muscles throughout training
Playing multiple sports improves overall strength and conditioning of athletes. It also allows players to decide for longer on what sport they truly love, especially if playing at a higher level. It’s important that kids are able to try new things and options are better.

It also helps develop better movement patterns and overall game sense. Kids learn how to be a team player in different situations. It’s known to help reduce social anxiety
Kids learn how to deal with adversity. You can be the star player on your football team, but sit on the bench in basketball or GAA team. Participating in multiple sports can provide cross training that can improve certain physical skills as well as help develop mental toughness. Research has suggested that Multi-sport athletes display improved health and wellness, including decreased injury rates, improved athletic performance, improved leadership skills and teamwork, better attendance in school and better academic performance.

iCoachKids ran an article on this topic and referenced “Best Practice for Youth Sport by Robin S. Vealey and Melissa A. Chase makes an interesting read.  Best Practice for Youth Sport tackles the increasing professionalization and specialization of youth sport and the changing culture of youth sport.

The text explores developmentally appropriate practice and encourages athlete-centered practices that are truly beneficial for young athletes. Robin conducted a webinar for Human Kinetics last August on the subject of “Athlete Development Through Multiple Sport Participation.”

Which leads me to the interview with @saoirse_noonan Footballer with @CorkCityFCWomen and Gaelic Footballer with @OfficialCorkGAA both codes she is plays at the highest level in Ireland. Noonan scored 1-2 in Cork ladies footballers win over Kerry, and the following day both goals in Cork City’s FAI Cup semi-final win over Treaty United.

Saoirse who doesn’t get much time to reflect on here extraordinary weekends. She rarely gets space to dwell. If she not’s being transported to training or games she’s on a Zoom lecture for her Business and Marketing course at CIT.

She recently spoke to the Larry Ryan of the Irish Examiner “A few of the girls who travel farthest met up after for a bit of socially distanced food. I came straight home, I just needed to get rested up. I got home around seven.

“The journey home alone probably helped — listen to a bit of music, relax. I was able to switch off, turn the batteries off. Once I got home it was all focus on Cork City from then on.

“I wouldn’t really be used to driving to games, so the legs were a bit tighter than usual when I got out of the car.

“But my mam is extremely good to me. She had the bath ready, she had the dinner ready. I put the feet up for the rest of the night and got loads of fluids in. There’s no secret really, just recover, look after yourself. Everyone knows their own body best.

“It’s mainly about being extremely organised. I’d my gear ready for Sunday on Thursday night. I had my two bags ready to go.

“I went to soccer training Thursday and I focused a lot on my job, what I had to do for Sunday, make sure I knew my role, knew what we needed to do as a team. “Once Friday morning came, the brain switches to the other sport.” 

Both sports are unpaid and self-funded for travel and training. I started by asking her At what age did she start playing sport and how did she involved?

“She’s a fantastic footballer, and a great girl as well. She’s very humble. She’s won more awards than you can imagine, but nothing phases her really. It’s just she loves playing — and that’s the beauty of it for us.”

About 5/6 I used go to my dad’s games and solo the ball around the pitch and then as I got a little older I joined in with my brothers team as my dad was the coach. I started playing soccer with Killeen boys and football with Nemo boys.

What sport did you start playing first? 

I started playing hurling and football with the boys first and then soccer with the boys.

What other positions have you played in the teams? 

In GAA I have always been in the forwards or midfield and soccer I have played every position I’d say, even in an international match I had to play centre back for a spell.

What about playing up in ages in sport? 

Yeah My brother is 2 years older than me so I began playing with boys a lot older. Then when I went to the girls when I was only 12 when I played in the feile tournament which is u14s.

Are you playing any other sport at the moment or had you before and until what age? 

I just play soccer and football now, I did play camogie up until about 16 and basketball until I was 15.

While specialization is a booming and concerning trend in youth sports, only recently we saw a document from the FAI suggesting that players (u13 boys) should commit to one ‘Elite’ Sport ‘Football’ at u13s but now we seeing children as young as 9 years old focusing solely on one discipline as they dream of becoming a professional player. Your approach can be seen as proof that such an approach is not the only route to success, at what age did you start playing sport at the highest level.

I think majority of successful sports people have played numerous sports growing up, it keeps you on your toes, keeps you active and training a lot and also it’s very beneficial as my vision of the game that I would of learned from soccer benefits me in GAA and the more intense hits in GAA benefits me in soccer, So I think at that age kids should play what they want and enjoy every minute of it. 

“She’s a fantastic footballer, and a great girl as well. She’s very humble. She’s won more awards than you can imagine, but nothing phases her really. It’s just she loves playing — and that’s the beauty of it for us.”

How do you manage playing two codes at the highest level and how do you work your time, college, training, matches and recovery with the teams? 

It is intense and can be extremely tough, but with an extremely supportive family and such a huge love for the game I wouldn’t change it. I know no different that running from match to match and training every night of the week.

US player Abby Wambach is the greatest header of a ball in women’s soccer history, a fact she credits to … basketball,  saying “Playing basketball had a significant impact on the way I play the game of soccer,” Wambach said. “I am a taller player in soccer, in basketball I was a power forward and I would go up and rebound the ball. So learning the timing of your jump, learning the trajectory of the ball coming off the rim, all those things play a massive role.” 

What do you credit your heading ability too and what are other areas are you dominant in? 

Yeah I would say all my sports as I said benefit me in different ways, heading the hall you go up brace in camogie with Hurley’s swinging, you learn how to keep your eye on a much smaller ball, basketball your judging rebounds etc so all of these assist me in getting a good leap and being brave putting my head on the ball.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND women’s manager Vera Pauw has named a provisional 31-player squad for her side’s European Championship qualifier against Germany and you are named, how did you find to about the call up? 

Ronan Collins my manager rang me on the Monday as I was in the car with my sister collecting recovery gear. It was extremely emotional and exciting for both of us and I’m glad I shared that moment with her.

What would you say to other players who want to play two codes at a high level and/or just haven’t decided on which one to pick? 

I would say enjoy every minute, there is games etc you may need to make choices but that’s life. Anything is possible and if you set your mind on it you can achieve it. Many would of told me a couple of years ago underage there’s no way I could carry on playing both and be successful and it has driven me to continue to prove them wrong and do what I love.

“What I love about her is she’s so cool, under pressure particularly. Nothing seems to faze her. She’s a very quiet girl, she’s very unassuming. There’s no cockiness in her. Great craic and that, she’s great with the one-liners.

I suppose at some age you will need to pick as the risk of injury is higher and recovery time can be difficult with time available. How, will you make this difficult decision or would you like to be able to play both for as long as possible? 

Yeah I’m still young and achieving things, I have been very lucky with injury’s only getting one bad injury which was my ACL (she sustained a partial tear to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the dying minutes of Cork City’s last game of the season back on 2019) but it was a small set back that has driven me on and inspired me to achieve more. (The diagnosis meant four or five months out of action along with rehab). That’s a long way down the line and I’ll keep enjoying my sport while I can.

Saoirse who is currently 21 years old and studying Marketing has played for the Irish International Women’s Team since u15s to u19s, she was also Captain through the various ages. She has represented Cork GAA County Team since her last year at School.

It’s hard to believe that it was just two summer ago when the talented dual star burst onto the senior inter-county ladies football scene. Noonan immediately earned herself the title of “super sub,” firing a 5-11 total in six championship matches from the bench.

“She’s serious,” as Rebels manager Ephie Fitzgerald said about her “There’s no point in talking, she’s a serious operator. “What I love about her is she’s so cool, under pressure particularly. Nothing seems to faze her. She’s a very quiet girl, she’s very unassuming. There’s no cockiness in her. Great craic and that, she’s great with the one-liners.

Having just being names Women’s National League Player of the Month for October she now has two huge games ahead, Cork GAA with play Galway in the semi-final of the All Ireland Senior Championship on December Sunday 06th the following weekend Cork City FC will meet Peamount United in the 2020 FAI Women’s Cup final on Saturday 12 December, both games will be live on TV.

You can follow Saoirse journey in sport on Twitter @saoirse_noonan and Instagram @snoonan99

References

Positive Coaching Alliance. (2016). An argument against early specialization. PCA Development Zone. Retrieved from http://devzone.positivecoach.org/resource/video/argument-against-early-specialization

Gilbert, W. (2017). Coaching better every seasonA year-round system for athlete development and program success. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

The42.ie and The Examiner

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