Coach Talk

COACH TALK: Christian McAuley

This week I spoke with Christian McAuley grassroots coach at Newbridge town.

TCD: How did you get into coaching?

CM: Like many coaches I got in to coaching because of my son. I wanted to give him the best football education and set about researching player development. Although I played football for 25+ years I soon found out how little I knew about the game and particularly how to teach it to young kids. I attended a number of workshops\coaching courses. I started out doing KS1 & KS2 and did the Coerver Coaching Diploma and a few weeks ago I passed the FAI Youth Cert. Having said all that most of my coaching development has come from reading about other coaches who I consider to be leaders in player development. People like Mark Senor (@markproskills) Matt Whitehouse (@The_W_Address) Nick Levett (@nlevett) Tim Lees (@timlees10) Jay Cochrane (@JayCochrane1983) Gary Kleiban (@3four3) and more recently John Davis (@renegadestyle) have all shaped the way I think of youth football.

TCD: What is your coaching philosophy?

CM: Up to now my philosophy has been a dribble don’t pass attitude for young kids. Use your skills and try to show off when you’re on the ball. I hate to see a kid just kick the ball with no purpose. Don’t be afraid to try new things and never ever give up. I can safety say that I’ve never told a kid to pass the ball just that if you lose it you must try your best to win it back. We do play games where passing is the best option and this helps the kids understand that although we want them to be creative on the ball, passing is a part of the game that must be learnt. The players have had some success with this philosophy when they reached the Final of the U9 DB Sports Summer Tournament in August.

This year we’ve gently introduced our U9 players to new concepts:

  • Possession and pressure based philosophy. We use the two “P’s” – Possession and Pressure to reaffirm the message to the kids.
  • We teach the 3 rules of possession 1. Spacing 2. Awareness 3. Communication;
  • We work a lot with Rondos and teach individual techniques on how to receive the ball in different scenarios, losing your man and coordinated pressure;
  • We ask questions constantly to reiterate the messages to both the team and to individuals;
  • Core Stability and Movement program;
  • Carol Dweck Growth Mindset theory;

TCD: What is your current role at the club?

CM: Currently I am a coach to the U9 age group in our Academy. We have 50+ kids registered and have an average attendance every Sunday morning of ~45. I am also part of a team of people within the club who are focusing on our Academy helping to put in best practices and educate other coaches within the Academy, most of whom are parents with kids playing in the Academy. Every year the Academy is growing and building a great reputation in the local area. We are attracting more and more experienced coaches also which can only benefit the children. I genuinely believe that if the club continues on this path you will hear great things from this club in the future.

TCD: How many teams do you have at the club?

We have 21 Schoolboy teams and 3 senior teams starting from U10. We also have 200 children from 4 years of age to 8 years of age registered in our Academy.

TCD: You have been using Funino at the club, what is funino?

CM: The Academy is currently using FUNINO – a small sided games programme developed by Horst Wein a University Lecture and former German and Spanish Olympic Hockey Teams Coach. His methods have been used for many years by a number of Football Federations including the Spanish Football Federation. FUNINO uses smaller pitch sizes and player numbers to encourage greater participation and more touches of the ball for all involved. The use of 4 goals out wide (without goal keepers) helps to alleviate the normal crowding or swarming traditionally experienced within these age groups and the scoring zone helps to assist with spatial awareness.

“At U8, our kids in the Academy are playing 3v3 – now what kids are going to benefit more?”

The club introduced to Funino two years ago and has been a revelation to many coaches. The great thing about Funino is you don’t need to be a football coach to teach it. All you need is to read the manual and put what you read into practice. The Manual explains everything, even gives questions to ask players and the answers. You don’t need to know anything about guided discovery… Just follow the manual. I learned so much about football by reading this manual.

TCD: Silly question but how have the kids enjoyed and adapted to this game?

CM: The kids really love playing Funino. With no goalkeepers and four goals there are lots of opportunities for them to score goals. All through our coaching we encourage the kids to dribble, use your tricks to beat the defender. The scoring zone makes dribbling and 1v1 skills a must in this game. A lot of the kids have become really competent 1v1 players. There is variety of different games that can be played on the Funnio pitch. All our 1v1’s and 2v2 training games are played on the Funino Pitch.

Last Easter we organised a 5v5 tournament based on Funnio rules. The tournament was attended by a number of Kildare and Dublin Clubs and the feedback on the game was excellent. In my opinion every kid should grow up playing Funino.

TCD: More and more clubs are not entering their young teams into organised fixtures and instead keep them at the academies to further implement the clubs’s philosophy. How has this worked for your club?

CM: Newbridge Town have invested heavily in coaching material mainly focusing on the Academy age groups. 3 years ago they invested in a Skills program, two years ago invested in Funnio and this year they signed a long term partnership with the Ajax Online Academy. Every year new equipment is bought; this year saw the purchase of 3 sets of high quality 5 aside goals and almost 100 more footballs.

Keeping teams out of organised fixtures has allowed more kids play football. Like I said previously we have 50+ kids at U9 in our Academy. We have at least 15 new kids join this year that never played before. If we had entered teams in organised fixtures at U8 when “leagues” start in the KDUL at least half of those kids would be lost because there would be no places on teams for them.

NTFC_Academy 2By keeping the kids away from organised fixtures, more kids benefit from playing and the club also benefits financially not having to pay league fees, Referees etc. It’s a win-win situation for the players and the Club. Every Sunday coaches get to teach kids skills and tricks at training and not have to worry who they are playing on Saturday.

Only last week a coach told me that his team conceded 2 goals from corners at the weekend so at his following training session he worked on defending from corners. Our coaches in the academy don’t have to think like that. It’s just skills, skills and more skills.

Many Clubs now see the idea of 7 olds playing organised football as counterproductive. In the KDUL organised leagues start at U8’s who play 7 aside. At U8, our kids in the Academy are playing 3v3 – now what kids are going to benefit more?

We also give the kids matches against other clubs. We have organised and played in a number of Tournaments over the course of the Academy and played in Funnio blitzes against other like-minded clubs. We’ve also organise internal leagues where we mix age groups.

TCD: From what age will teams begin to play in organised fixtures?

CM: This was a debating point within the club some said U9, U10 others taught U11’s would be best. In the end it was decided to go at U10. Entering at U11’s will not be ruled out for future age groups.
Next year the first batch of children who have been through the full Skills and Funino program will leave the Academy and it will be very exciting to see how these kids develop.

TCD: You participated recently in the Silent Sideline Weekend, how did you find it?

CM: The day went very well and we had great support from all our coaches and parents. It really gave us the chance to try educating our coaches and parents that we need less coaching and directing from the side-line each week. We only want them to encourage the players and keep everything positive regardless of how the game is going. The silent side-line highlighted this and the kids thought it was great.

TCD: Your club along with some others are using the Ajax online coaching philosophy, how is this implemented and measured?

CM: Yes this is our first season implementing the Ajax online academy. The first thing we decided to do was bring Ajax Technical Director Patrick Ladru to Newbridge Town to put on a workshop and introduce the system and the Ajax philosophy to all our coaches. So we set about introducing the Ajax training programme into our academy along with our younger teams. So from a very early age our coaches can start introducing the Ajax training sessions to our players. The program caters for all age groups from basic to difficult. This makes transition from academy to teams an easier one, with very little difference in the style training.

It was clear to us at the club that we should help our players by helping our coaches. By offering them structure, especially within their training sessions we could drastically improve the quality of coaching each player receives. The Ajax system is our way of ensuring that all kids at the club received similar, high-quality training. It also opened up the opportunity to send our teams to Ajax and play against local teams and receive coaching sessions with Ajax coaches. Our U13s are the first team to make the trip this March.

TCD: The Kildare league is taking big strides in the area of player and coach development. Are local teams buying into playing in the K-league or do they see the Dublin leagues as the stepping stone to success?

CM: The Kildare league is having problem with many one-sided fixtures and is seeking to address this issue by educating coaches and recently set up the “Koaches Association” lead by the KDUL’s Football director, Mike Geoghegan. They had their first workshop in October with another one planned in December. This is a great initiative and hopefully will see the standard of play improve across the league.

Without doubt the Dublin leagues are the strongest in the country and lure of a big Dublin club can be too hard to resist for some. There are many players travelling from Kildare to play in the DDSL every week – I know of two U9 players travelling from Newbridge, so I don’t see that changing anytime soon unless the Kildare Clubs can really improve their coaching standards.

Here at Newbridge there has been big drive over the last few years to improve the standard of coaching with a particular focus on the younger age groups. Our aim to give our kids the best football education in Kildare so they will not need to travel to a Dublin Club but Kildare Clubs need to be competing in the last rounds of the SFAI Cups on regular basis if they want to stop all our young talent travelling to Dublin.

TCD: What changes would you make to the kids game?

CM: Firstly, I would abolish the all organised fixtures up to U10. Looking at the KDUL I would abolish the 7 aside game for U8’s and U9’s.

If leagues want to keep control of these age groups, then I would suggest that when a Team registers with the league they are given a Funinio Manual and a Skills program where the emphasis is on 1v1’s and 2v2’s. Every 8 weeks a club or the league would host a 3v3 or 5v5 Blitz day or Invite a number of Clubs to a Tournament type event. Have the players’ ref their own games. Refereeing their own games should be practiced at training with kids encouraged to be honest. The Academy director of the league would get see all young talent playing in one day. Playing every 8 weeks leaves more time for coaches to teach ball mastery, 1v1 skills and not have to worry about training session based on defending corners.


  • Training to games time ratio increases. Coaches get 8 weeks to work with team before they play a game;
  • Clubs only travel once every 8 weeks;
  • KDUL Academy coaches get to see and help the best young players in Kildare in 1 day;
  • Reduced costs for teams, less travel expenses, no need to pay refs;
  • Playing 5 aside tournament type football far more enjoyable for children.

TCD would like to thank Christian for contributing to the blog.




I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me, if you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend.

Thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

Irish Grassroots Football

Horst Wein’s visit to Ireland in 2011

This is an event I organised with Dermot Dalton from in 2011.This was Horst Wein first visit to Dublin. I had met Horst a few months previous in Barcelona.

In the 5 minute video, he discusses the changes we need to make to improve kids football in Ireland. I think we have come along way since this was video made. Horst highlights so much and certainly gives us a lot to think about.

“In Ireland the kids are not allowed to discover the game and the beauty of the game of football. Why, they are exposed to competition which is by far to difficult and to complex for them. Competition for kids, should fit them like their shoes. Over here, at the moment our kids are playing with shoes that are by far to big and don’t suit them perfectly.” Horst Wein

This workshop was well attended, including most the FAI Coaching Department and other well established coaches. Although we have seen some progression, we still have such a long way to go. If you want to find out more about Horst Wein’s 3v3, go straight


I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. Thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

Irish Grassroots Football

Funino is the future!

Ireland is evolving and so are the methods of the many coaches around the country, but of all the small sided games programmes, FUNINO is the most creditable and the best format for developing the game of football.

If you have heard of Funino you can download the ‘Ultimate Mini Game with Four Goals’ programme at the bottom of this article. Funino is the most excited game in the world and the only one designed to unlock creativity and game intelligence. Developed by the Horst Wein, a University Lecture and former German and Spanish Olympic Hockey Teams Coach. His methods have been used for over 20 years by the Royal Spanish Football Federation, for 7 years by Australian Football Federation and now the Mexican football Federation has published the first volume of “Futbol a la medida del nino”.

“There was once a time when street football and free play was the norm. Then we become adults wanted to control it , make it organised and forgot the child in all of us” UEFA B Coach Mark O Sullivan

What makes this even more relevant is an Irish man called Dermot Dalton of is helping Wein re-write his methods, which are now being used by the North Dublin School Boy League. The programme which is designed for 7 to 9 year olds is currently being employed by six Professional Clubs in the German Bundesliga. A game that can be used for older players in training and even up-to and including professional level.


This is a game for young players to discover the magic of The Beautiful Game with a programme designed especially for them:

  • Experience the “renaissance of street football” in the 21st century.
  • Be the best coach you can be, creating a player-centred environment where young talent flourishes.
  • Introduce your players to game intelligence while establishing their technique, in a player-centred, game-oriented programme.
  • 32 official  games
  • 24 Preparatory/corrective games
  • 20+ important game variables

Horst Wein’s training programme for 7-9 year olds is based on his proven game of Mini-Football, now called which is the abbreviation for “ Futbol a la medida del Niño” or “football designed for children.”

The programme is the result of 27 years of innovation, practice and continuing improvement and is part of the Horst Wein Youth Football Development Model, which is the official textbook of the Spanish Football Federation since 1993 and is used by FC Barcelona, Athletico Bilbao and many top clubs around the world. This breakthrough approach to inducting young children into the game of football obviously has an emphasis on FUN so that children come to fall in love with the game from the earliest ages. It has been called the “Revival of Street Football. “


Last Monday saw the official Funino programme launch at the NDSL headquarters. 20 mini pitches inside a full 11 aside pitch for a group of boys and girls age 8 and 9. A total of 85 kids turned out to experience the programme first hand. This is another great leap by the NDSL in trying to re-structure the grassroots game, who are the first league in Ireland to introduce this format. The training will continue every Monday from 6 to 7pm for u9s and 7 to 8pm for u10s and spaces are still available.

The Benefits of the 3v3

  • The two wide goals at each end encourage young players to use the wings in attack and open up the play.
  • Playing with 2 goals stimulates greater reading and understanding of the game, including peripheral vision, perception and decision making skills before executing any actions.
  • Stimulates, more than any other traditional football game, intelligence, perception, imagination and creativity.
  • Sufficient space and time allows children to read the game and play constructive football and to develop basic communication skills.
  • More time and space, better reading of the game and better decision-making and skill execution means less mistakes.
  • Due to the fact that the same basic game situations appear again and again (i.e. the 2v1 situation) the young players learn very quickly.
  • In FUNino, 8 and 9 year olds enjoy more touches on the ball, treating it as their best friend. No long clearances or wild and dangerous kicks can be seen in which players “violate the ball”.
  • Players attack and defend in a triangular formation for better communication and collaboration. Positioning in the field is easy.
  • Allows an all round development of all participants as there are no fixed positions in a team which would avoid too early specialization. Everybody has to attack as well as to defend, using the whole pitch.
  • Usually there are lots of goals and goalmouth action.
  • Each player scores more than one goal per game.
  • All the players get to experience a starring role in this dynamic game.
  • All 3 players, including the weaker ones, play a critical role in this game and are involved mentally and physically throughout the game. Nobody can hide!

We, at The Beautiful Game, believe that our proven youth development model can achieve a number of important goals at the same time:

  1.  All children get to enjoy the game of football as children (and not as mini-adults) as the game(s) are tailored to their needs.
  2. Children have the opportunity to reach their full potential, whatever that is, through an optimal development model, including a player-centred approach, that is games-oriented (rather than drills) and a guided discovery coaching style (rather than the traditional instruction style).
  3. As the model is more inclusive and fair than the traditional elitist model, there are many social and character/lifestyle benefits emanating from this approach.


There will be a one day Funino course held the NDSL on Saturday 2nd November and Sunday 9th November. T

Saturday 2nd November 2013

9am – 4.30pm


Sunday 10th November

9am – 4.30pm

Oscar Traynor Centre, Coolock

€90 (including printed Funino manual)

For further details on Funino contact or call Dermot on 086 8513339.

Download the FUNINO BROCHURE OCT 2013


I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. Thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

Coaching Clinics

FUNino Coaching Clinic

FUNiño is the introductory module of Futbol a la medida del niño, the world famous “Youth Football Development Model” by Horst Wein which has been the official textbook of the Spanish Football Federation since 1993, and represents a significant breakthrough in youth football coaching.

The magic formula of playing 3v3 on 4 goals introduces width,  options, perception and decision-making –  laying a solid foundation for  Game Intelligence.


FUNiño is the fastest growing development game for kids in the world today. It has been used extensively all over Europe and South America, currently in use at 6 Bundesliga clubs and recommended by Arrigo Sacchi, Technical Director of the Italian Football Federation.

2 Day Coach Training Clinic – With Dermot Dalton of The Beautiful Game in partnership with the NDSL

Sunday 21 and Sunday 28 April 2013

  • Time: 10.00am – 5.30pm
  • Location: Oscar Traynor Centre (NDSL)
  • Cost: €100 p.p. (includes 100 page  manual, value €30)

A complete development programme for 7-9 year olds :

  • Learn to use games rather than drills for greater development
  • Learn the Game Intelligence Approach to Coaching
  • Learn Guided Discovery for greater understanding and retention
  • 24 Preparatory/corrective games
  • 32 Official FUNiño games


Sunday 21st April

DAY 1               PRACTICAL CLINIC:        

10.00 am – the official rules

Preparatory and corrective exercises/game 1

12.30 pm – Lunch

13.30 pm – Preparatory and corrective exercises/games 2

16.00 pm – Player Evaluation Test

16.45 pm – Pentathlon

17.30 pm – Finish                                                           

Sunday 28th April

DAY 2             PRACTICAL CLINIC:   

10.00 am – 32 games part 1

12.00 pm – Lunch

13.00 pm – 32 games part 2

17.30 pm – Finish

For details contact Dermot Dalton 086 8513339 or

To book ring Margaret at the NDSL  01 8488802


Coaching Clinics

An intro to ‘funino’

The beautiful game (Horst Wein) has devised an optimal programme to develop the creative potential of 7-9 year old players.

On Monday the 4th February 6.30pm-9.30pm.

This evening session will consist of theory and practical introduction to the rapidly growing  FUNINO game that is taking the world by storm. FUNINO represents the first module in Horst Wein’s Optimal Youth Football Development Model or “Futbol a la medida del Nino.

“The Official Textbook of the Royal Spanish Football Federation since 1993!”

The game which inspired 3 Mexican under 17 players to World Cup success in 2011 and currently in use in four Bundesliga academies has recently been rolled out in such diverse places as India, Germany, Panama and Costa Rica…

“The game is the teacher”

Check out the The Beautiful Game website

Details as follows: 

Date: Monday 4th February 2013

Time: 6.30-9.30pm

Location: Oscar Traynor Centre (NDSL)

Arrive: Registration 6pm

Cost: €10 p.p.

Please book through Mitch Whitty (NDSL) at 087 9513624 

With Dermot Dalton of The Beautiful Game in conjunction with the NDS