Podcast 7: Luke Nolan St Patrick’s Athletic under 17s player

This week I spoke with Luke Nolan Irish International & St. Patrick’s Athletic under 17s. We talk about his life in youth football so far, the sacrifices he’s made and his dreams of becoming a professional footballer.


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 PodCast

Podcast 2: What it takes to be a Professional in the Game today!

This week I spoke with Tim Clancy, Patrick Cregg and Dave O’Connor all currently playing for Shamrock Rovers. The three lads give a brilliant and honest account about their lives as professional footballers. Between them they have spent many years playing in Britain and Ireland.

Listen to their views, opinions, advice and ideas on everything to do with being a professional footballer today.
– End

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

Touches and then, more quality touches!

If I want to be come a better writer I must read more books. If I want to be become a better footballer, I must get more touches of the ball. Well, that’s how it use to work.

For many years now we have been comparing every promising young footballer to the talents of Roy Keane but we need to go back as far as 1999 Ray Houghton and 1996 Ronnie Whelan to find Irish players with great talent (technical) that were able to compete at the highest level. Under the current climate, as we look to the future it is highly unlikely that we will ever see players of this calibre playing for Ireland again.

My view on last nights game (Ireland v Portugal 1-5)….

I think we did ok on occasions and tried to at least play from the back. Ireland had a weakened team but Portugal also have 4-5 starters on the bench. Portugal’s passing in tight passes compared to ours was exceptional and this is the part of the game that we are light years behind in. The biggest problem is education, it’s culture, it’s mentality but most of it’s how many people really and truly care.

Educating the parents (who are mostly the coaches) and the ‘coaches’ who do develop by doing their coaching badges. The current coaching pathway teaches you nothing about the athlete. They don’t focus on the player coach relationship, teaching the player to play over winning, which it the most important area for the young player. Most of the FAI tutors have been the same tutors for many years. The content of the course may have changed but the delivery is still very much the same. In Spain and Portugal the tutors are also working with the best Academies in that area. So, not only are they current they are working with various age groups within those professional academies. They understand the child and whats required at different age groups in a professional environment and the focus is on coaching the player to play. They also have a philosophy, which every coach buys into too. These same tutors are able to pass this information onto the rookie coach just starting out, which is hugely valuable to the grassroots coach and the game.

No point in comparing!

We aren’t and won’t ever get that level of tutoring (no disrespect to these tutors), so it’s up to each individual coach to find his own way after he completes a course and everyone is doing something completely different. Soccer in Ireland is a recreational sport so we will only ever get a recreational standard.  The question is,…. Are we expecting too much? The biggest concern is players aren’t touching the ball enough and when they do it’s organised coaching, so they consistently have adults telling them what to do and where to go. We teach them what we see but the player does not see what you see!!

988365_595997677104474_1080675562_nMajority of kids are getting on average 150 touches of a ball per week (if even), based on 2x1hr training session and 1 hour match. This is not enough to develop players like they can in Europe. How many times do we see kids playing football on their own, how many carry a ball with them at all times, how many small sided recreational football pitches do we have around Ireland for kids to just play on their own. If you throw a stone in some of these countries it will land on a football pitch. If we throw a stone in Ireland it lands on a green with a sign saying, “No football allowed”, we aren’t providing enough spaces for kids to play and maybe that’s why they don’t play.

“Another issue we face is coach burn out. The volunteer coach can only do so much. We can’t keep asking coaches to give up all their spare time and give nothing back in return. If we really want to challenge in the football world we need professional coaches. Unfortunately the game of football and the coach is not taken seriously enough in this country” – Me

Last weekend I spoke to two coaches from Sligo and Mayo who are also involved with ETP. They have kids who only play ten games a year and might go 2-3 months without a game. Most of these kids will end up leaving the game to GAA sports because they can provide a challenge every weekend and soccer can’t. Irish players are going backwards, they are far less intelligent on the pitch to how they were 15-20 years ago and why??? They don’t get enough touches of the ball and they are getting less and less as the years go back not to mention that they are being coached on positional sense and tactics instead of ball retention, control and delivery.

Play Like Spain

“Let’s play like Spain, two touch football” people forget that to play like Spain you have to be playing like that from at 7. If we only encourage our players at a young age to only take two touches then they will never be able to go 1v1 in a game. Iberian kids are encouraged to go 1v1 at a very young age, they are encouraged to dribble and take risks. There is a lot more to the way Spain and Portugal play and it starts at a very young age. They also play Futsal from age 6 to 12 and can continue all they way up to professional senior Futsal if they prefer. Futsal is the most technical game in the world (the closet thing to street football) and all the best players have started with this game. The Irish mentality of “get rid of it or pass, pass, pass” needs to change. Which won’t happen anytime soon but we won’t stop trying.

“We need to change the attitude of the people who think getting kids playing 11v11 as quick as possible makes sense. Most of these people are involved with the Grassroots governing body the SFAI, who’s combined age reaches tens of thousands. That’s how far removed they are from the needs and wants of a 9 year old kid” 

We have far too many parents coaching kids (and without them we wouldn’t a game) and not enough qualified coaches with the right philosophy. We need to decide what we want, do we want to be a footballing nation challenging at the biggest and best tournaments in the world or would we rather just make up the numbers??

Ultimately, the environment must be Safe, Fun and kids need to be challenged whilst learning something every-time they train. They must be getting better every week but how many really are? Can we change a society that loves to win at all cost to one that focuses on improving the athlete? With the focus on Playing over Winning. I know I’ve been here before because every-time we are on the end of a big defeat, everyone comes out ranting and raving on what needs to be done but nothing ever gets done. 14 years ago we were able to compete with the best European teams, now we are 14 years behind them and still waiting  for a plan. Let’s hope one comes soon!!!

A few ideas that could get kids on the ball more:

We know that smaller number, smaller pitches = to more touches, more goals and more fun.

  • National Plan where everyone is doing the same thing.
  • u8s to u12s should be playing Futsal or least weekend blitzes where they get at least 1.5 hours of football not 3 hours of travel time to play 30 minutes of football.
  • December to March should be Futsal for everyone.
  • League to start futsal sections.
  • Roll out Futsal in Schools across Ireland.
  • No league or cups until u13
  • No national cups until u14s
  • Tournaments and Blitzes for all ages up to u12s
  • 5v5 to u9s (Size 3 light football)
  • 7v7 to u11s (Size 4 light football 250gram, with an option to continue 7v7 to u12s in parts of the country that don’t have the same level of participation)
  • 8v8 or 9v9 to u13s (size5 light 350gram balls)
  • 11v11 at u14s (with the option to play 9v9 for lower level teams) (Size 5 410gram footballs)

Marketing the game: 

Just looking to how the GAA promote in schools could be a solution.

  • LOI players to visit local clubs.
  • Maybe even take a PE session.
  • Bring the trophies and prizes into schools.
  • Allocate local clubs certain schools to target, that way clubs aren’t fighting for the same schools.
  • For instance in D15 we have over 26 junior schools, all have been targeted by the GAA but many have never had an FAI personal enter the school. FAI headquarters are in D15.
  • When was the last time an Irish international player went to a local school to promote the game?
  • The only way to get kids interested is to get them interested at a young age.

At the end of the day, whether we like to believe it or not we are a recreational football nation with a professional international team. It’s what we do down at worms eye view that will ultimately be the basis of what we produce at the top.

Please share your views below.


Worth a read Pete McDonnell Blog and his views on last night’s game.

I always like to hear your opinions and views. If you feel you have something to say, please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. As always, thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

Irish Grassroots Football

Understanding our Children. We have a lot to learn.

Just finished an event on Child and Adolescent Psychology (ESCAP 2013) which ran for 5 days at the Convention Centre in Dublin. One thing came to mind, why do we have so many Child Psychiatrists?

The answer, I have come to believe is because we have failed our children, we have failed to understand them, we also put to much pressure on them to understand things before their time. In a way we allow them to grow up too quickly and then expect them to understand everything a adult does. We no longer let kids be kids and when they do cry for help, we don’t understand them or the support is not there to help them.

Stigma, mental health, child abuse, we have failed our children and continue to do so. There are over 30 organisations in Ireland devoted to child services and over 50 devoted child and adolescent. These services are busier than ever and in fact are under huge pressure to stay up and running. The Child Mental Health coalition was set-up to put pressure on the government to do more for the kids of Ireland. Their vision is..

“That Ireland should be one of the best places in the world to be a child, where every child’s right to mental health is realised. Not only does the Government have an obligation to improve the lives of children in Ireland, it has the power to make this happen”.

If you put child mental health into google search, you will be very surprised to see the vast amount of organisations operating in Ireland in this field. So that tells me that Mental Health is now an everyday issue, so there should no longer be stigma attached to child mental health or mental health in general. The quicker we accept it and understand the quicker we can help our children and this might prevent another death by suicide and devastation for another Irish family.

95% of Irish people believe that talking to a friend or family member is helpful for looking after mental health. Reports have also shown that many are socially isolated and don’t have many friends or get out and about very often. That’s why we must encourage people to not only look after their own mental health but also that of others. It is no wonder there is still such a stigma surrounding mental health problems when the “mental” word is not even part of the child health vocabulary of parents and service providers. It is as if mental health is irrelevant to small children and it shouldn’t be. Your mental health is so important.


As people who are regularly in touch with children of all ages we have an obligation to keep them in sport for as long as we can. Reports have proven that the positive, direct effects of engaging in regular physical activity are particularly apparent in the prevention of several chronic diseases, including: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression and osteoporosis. A number of studies have shown that exercise may play a therapeutic role in addressing a number of psychological disorders and it has also shown that sport has a positive influence on depression.

“Be careful how you speak to your children, one day it will become their inner voice”

Physical self-worth and physical self-perception, including body image, has been linked to improved self-esteem. The evidence relating to health benefits of physical activity predominantly focuses on intra-personal factors such as physiological, cognitive and affective benefits, however, that does not exclude the social and inter-personal benefits of sport and physical activity which can also produce positive health effects in individuals and communities.

Let keep kids healthy, let’s keep our kids in Sport.

Worth a Listen

Jim McGuinness on the benefits of Sport   (Mental Health piece starts 28mins in)

Gever Tulley talks about ‘5 dangerous things for kids’ 

Ruby Wax on Mental Health


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

The Coach Diary

Premier Ambitious – Don’t miss it!!!!

“Premier Ambitions”a new six-part documentary following the Home Farm U-15 team as they strive to win the league. I have just finished watching an episode and based on that, this is everything I have wished for and could not have come at a better time for grassroots football in Ireland. I think a lot of people are going to be shocked to see how football at the top level in this country is coached…I’ll say no more 🙂

What was the reason behind this programme?

It was basically to get an insight into the world of youth football in Ireland at the highest level. I think the seriousness and intensity of football at this level is a bone of contention amongst a lot of people with some thinking it shoud be more about taking part and having fun, whilst for others it is a career path and something that is very professional. I think by following a club with great tradition like home farm we got to see how the system works and where some of the next generation of Irish stars are coming from.

The Series is produced by David Clarke and Ciarán Deeney of El Zorrero Films. It was filmed and directed by Ciarán Deeney. El Zorrero Films is an award winning production company specialising in documentary content for both television and cinema who have produced content for all the major Irish broadcasters. They are based in Dublin and have a keen interest in sport and sports related programming.

Setanta Ireland will broadcast Episode 1 on Monday, 11th February at 9.45pm, following live coverage of the first round of Setanta Sports Cup.

Irish Grassroots Football

DB Sports Tours Champions Cup 2012

Really looking forward to the DB Sports Tours Champions Cup this Saturday. I was at it last year when two teams contested a final at u15s age group. This year they have increased it to 5 age groups. I don’t believe there has ever been a competition pitting the best of the South with the best of the North; this will be a truly great day for Irish Youth Soccer.

The Article below is courtesy of the Irish Daily Star.


IRELAND’S top schoolboy teams will kick-off the New Year in style when they take on their northern counterparts in an expanded DB Sports Tours Champions Cup schedule next month.

Five SFAI national cup winners, ranging from Under-12 to U16s, will each face the Northern Ireland Boys Football Association’s Champions in their respective age groups on an action-packed day on January 5.

Dundalk’s Oriel Park will host the newly-expanded competition, which was began with a two-legged single contest last last year.

Following an exciting clash at Tolka Park in December 2011, NIBFA top dogs St Oliver Plunketts saw off Shelbourne at Seaview in January to take the innaugeral title at U-15 level.

As tournament organizers DB Sports Tours decided to expand the competition across the age groups for the second year and fans are set to benefit with five fantastic games in a row on the first Saturday in January.

“We recently signed a three-year sponsorship deal with the NIBFA, so cross-border clashes between the south and north’s best look like becoming a regular occurrence”.

Reigning U-11 (left) and U-13 SFAI champions St Kevin’s Boys are committed to a club trip across the water to English Premier League side West Bromwich Albion so Crumlin United and Cherry Orchard take their places respectively.

Crumlin’s excellent U-12s fill in for Kevin’s against Glentoran FC in the day’s opening encounter, before St Francis face Plunketts in the U-13 clash.

Francis won last year’s DB Sports Tours Manchester Easter Cup – beating hosts Manchester City in the final.

The Orchard’s U-14s narrowly missed out on U-13 DDSL Premier Division success last season and will hope to make up for it against Plunketts.

The U-15 contest is a highly-anticipated one, with Templeogue United’s league and national champions facing Crusaders FC, before Plunketts have a third team involved on the day against Malahide United in the U-16 final.


U12′s (2001′s) Crumlin United v Glentoran FC, 11:00AM KO – 20 mins e/w

U13′s (2000′s) ST.Francis FC v ST.Oliver Plunketts 12:00 – 25 mins e/w

U14′s (1999′s) Cherry Orchard v ST.Oliver Plunketts 1:00 – 25 mins e/w

U15′s (1998′s) Templeogue Utd v Crusaders FC – 2:00 – 30 mins e/w

U16′s (1997′s) Malahide Utd v ST.Oliver Plunketts 3:00 – 30 mins e/w

*Text courtesy of the Irish Daily Star’s Target supplement*

Ireland Irish Grassroots Football

Open Training session with Irish Squad

FAI have just announced an open training session next Saturday 8th October at Tallaght Stadium

Republic of Ireland senior squad will hold a free open training session for supporters in Tallaght Stadium at 15.00hrs on Saturday October 8, the day after the boys in green take on Andorra.

Doors will open at 14.00hrs

Most of us are not overly please with our style of play, however Traps methods have been successful whether we like it or not and we are very close to what could be another defining moment in our history. I will be going to the game against Armenia next Tuesday 11th October and you knows that could be the one that takes us all the way to Poland/Ukraine 2012