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

Post – Future of Youth Development in Irish Football

Thanks to all you attended the talk the other night, in particular the speakers Mitch Whitty: NDSL Playing philosophy and changing the mentality, Austin Speight: Developing level of coaching at Pro clubs UK and France, Michael Lynam: Positive Coaching for Children/Young Players and Dermott Dalton: Horst Wein’s – Optimal Development Model.

The Clubs

We had coaches from Aungier Celtic, Bohemians FC, Cabinteely FC, Castleknock Celtic FC, Crumlin United, Dunboyne AFC, DDLS referees, NDSL Academy, Premier Skills Ireland, Lourdes Celtic FC, Newbridge Town FC, Portlaoise AFC, Shelbourne FC, Trim Celtic AFC, Ratoath Harps, including journalist from the Times, The Herald and The Star.

What was said

Some really good points made:

  • Summer football.
  • All year around football.
  • Non competitive until 12s.
  • Introduction of ‘Funino’ 3v3 and 5v5 throughout Ireland.
  • Clubs to put pressure on SFAI and FAI to implement change ASAP.
  • Regular workshops to implement change.
  • Child Welfare mandatory courses for all coaches (Like the UK).
  • Parent education should be mandatory.
  • Bigger involvement of soccer in both primary and secondary Schools.
  • Much more involvement from the governing body ‘the FAI’ within Grassroots structure.
  • Pre-season talk with players and referees.
  • The converted to spread the word amongst fellow coaches and implement changes within their clubs.

Your Suggestions prior to talk: 

  • More Futsal games for skill development rather competitive 5v5 games for winning.
  • Change in Coaching Methods with an emphasis on technique and insist on all Coaches/Managers attending coaching courses before being allowed coach kids.
  • Smaller pitches, smaller goals.
  • No league tables until aged 14 – play on small pitches until 13/14.
  • We must concentrate on developing our young players technically from 5/6 years of age.
  • Non-Competitive football until u14. Bigger focus on Technical needs of the players from u5s to u14s.
  • Small sided games is the way forward up to u12 level. Should be non competitive at this level.
  • Start 11 aside football at u14s.
  • Competition to start at u13s.
  • Introduction of a proper national technical program.
  • Remove the SFAI from directing football.
  • Allow more influence from other coaching groups like Coerver.
  • 7v7 until age u12s, move to 11v11 at u13s introduce competition at u14s.
  • Roll out changes across the country.
  • In our league NECSL age 12 should is currently 11 a side, will be pushing again to keep it at 9 a side.
  • 9aside until u13 with size four ball.
  • Competitive soccer to be introduced from under 14s upwards and a bigger emphasis towards concepts such as ”FUNino” also more F.A.I involvement in the D.D.S.L
  • No moving clubs before the age of 12
  • Smaller pitches for younger ages – more touches, so more football

Let me know if I have forgotten any, thanks!


They are just some of the questions and ideas brought up by coaches from the clubs listed above. Although the turn out of just 35 coaches was disappointing the content from the speakers and questions from the floor was not. I hope to run these workshops over the coming months and with the help of you guys, we can continue to educate those who have yet to follow the change we so desperately want.


The Winners of the prizes are as follows: 

Inside Soccer Bootroom+ (I year subscription) – John Farrell – Ratoath Harps

Inside Soccer Bootroom+ (I year subscription) – Fran Tyrell – Dunboyne AFC

Inside Soccer Bootroom+ (I year subscription) – Robbie Connell – Trim Celtic AFC

Inside Soccer Annual Convention 2011 (I year subscription) – Eoin Feely – Unattached

Inside Soccer Annual Convention 2011 (I year subscription) – Keane Murray – Aungier Celtic

Coerver Coaching workshop – May18/19th – Alan Byrne – Lourdes Celtic

Coachdiary Workshop (tbc) – Dermot O’Connor – Cabinteely FC

And a 20% discount for everyone else before April 15th – use code TCD20

Thanks to JAKO.IE for sponsoring the event – INSIDESOCCER.COM and COERVER COACHING IRELAND for the prizes and you for participating.

Next Talk: May 2013

The Future of Youth Development in Irish Football