By EAMON SCOTT
|PLAYERS and coaching staff are checking in. Everyone has their temperature taken, including STRIKERONLINE.|
This is the new normal for clubs and Covid-19 compliance officers are ensuring that HSE Covid-19 return to action protocols are being met.
LFA C-19 Compliance Officer Dick Redmond is taking temperatures with a ‘gun’ of the arriving LFA Youths squad at the AUL Complex.
The figure is called out and then logged as players sign in to the training session. Beside the LFA set-up is a Shelbourne FC Compliance officers set-up. They are logging players as they make their way onto the pitches at Clonshaugh while spectators take an alternative route to the pitches. They too have to go through the same routine with their temperatures checked before they are given pitchside access.
There is an air of business-like order about the place. It’s a big day for Joey Malone’s LFA Youths squad who will have the benefits of former Republic of Ireland Under 21 and interim senior manager Noel King for an afternoon’s coaching session.
It’s a big coup for Joey and he’s understandably delighted with Noel’s arrival at the AUL Complex. Noel is looking tanned and fit but like everyone else, he has to have his temperature taken, but he passes with flying colours.
Noel had a brief spell as interim Republic of Ireland Senior manager following Giovanni Trapattoni’s resignation and his 50% record of won one and lost one compares well alongside other luminaries of the position.
News is breaking of Jack Charlton’s passing and a lot of the small talk is about Big Jack and what he done for the country and it’s commonly agreed that his methods had brought about a Golden Age for Irish football and the honorary Irishman’s place was assured for all time at the top table in the Pantheon of Irish Sport.
Joey Malone’s assistant manager Dave Mackey has already got this morning session underway and the high vis poles are set up to create a working area and Mackey is full of coaching industry, imparting his vast knowledge bank of experience to the up and coming starlets of the province.
There’s a mix of DDSL clubs Crumlin United, Belvedere, Mark’s Celtic and St Kevin’s Boys and there’s also a few Wexford starlets – from North End and Bridge Rovers – and the soft accents in evidence. Goalkeeping coach Greg Christodoulu is working his two net-minders through a warm-up drill while experienced physio Stephen Weafer and kit-man Ross Murray are also on hand.
There’s a genuine sense of professionalism about the session and the LFA – through their sponsorship by O’Neills – have ensured that the players and staff are resplendent in matching kit. Last week’s session was based on attacking play and this week’s will be about defensive play.
There’s a real structure to the session and Mackey steps in to stop and recreate scenarios. There’ a lot of information and it’s down to the minute of what way your body should receive the ball and where best to position yourself.
The intrusions are minimal, but they are loaded with useful advice.The squad is in preparation for the October FAI Youths Interpros and after finishing runners up last year, Malone would love nothing better to bring the title back to Leinster.
The LFA Youths has been an excellent breeding ground for late blooming talent and the likes of Stephen Staunton and Paddy Madden would have donned the LFA jersey in a previous time.
Says Malone: “Look, it’s great to be back. It’s been a long few months. The players have got a couple of sessions under their belts with their clubs and they are all fairly sharp. It’s great to have this amount of time with them. Normally it would be a few weeks before the competition that we would have access to, so to get them July is great for everybody.
“It’s also great to have Noel King here today. Noel’s been a top player and a top international manager and the kids will really enjoy the session with him. He has a huge amount of experience at domestic and international level and often speaks at UEFA conferences, so the players are in for a real treat with Noel’s session later.”
The experience that King, Malone and Mackey bring to the LFA session is very impressive, but, sadly, the kids might be too young to remember their glory days on the pitch?
“That’s right,” says Joey. “It might be that their dads or in some cases their grandads might recall our own playing days, but this is an opportunity to pass on our own coaching knowledge and hopefully make them better players.”
“We have a good backroom team and everyone works hard and it is for the benefit of the players ultimately.”
“Look, this platform is a great stepping stone for these players. They would have missed out at Under 15 and Under 16 internationally and maybe even under 17s with League of Ireland clubs. For me they are late developers, but they are very good players. Not everyone can play with Shamrock Rovers, St Pats or Bohs but I find that by the time we are finished with the League of Ireland clubs will come knocking on their doors. So it really is a development pathway – at least into League of Ireland football, if not better.”
Added Malone: “The FAI lost a game against Wales and I would hope that fixture which should have taken place in March will be put back in place. In recent times, it’s been a part of playing in the FAI Interpros is that the players are give a chance to go on and represent their country at Under 18 level with a home based squad. It’s important that the FAI get that fixture back in place as part of this process.
“These players come in and they are representing their club,then they represent their province and the cherry on the top of the cake is the possibility of representing their country. We had eight players last time out and would have eight for the postponed game in March, so this is a great stepping stone all the way up to international football.”
Malone is full of admiration for the LFA and how they go about their business: “I like to do things professionally and that’s the only way I’d be involved in something like this. If I’m managing the LFA Youths team, I’ll manage that as if it were Shamrock Rovers or Bohemians or Dundalk. It has to be professional and to be fair to the LFA Committee they know about their business in a very professional way.”
” I also have to give thanks to O’Neills who are our sponsors for the gear.It’s top quality and all I have to do is ring Mick Byrne I am and looked after. It’s very professional and you can see players here this morning and the kids appreciate that things are being done for them in a professional way.”
“It’s all leading up to the Interpros and that is now scheduled for October. It’s Leinster’s turn to host and I believe it’s going to be in the Tullamore region. Hopefully we can go one better than last year when we were runner’s up.
I felt we should have won it, but we’ll look to get back to winning ways in October”
Manager Malone explained that the selection process is still open and prospective players can still force their way into the final squad: “‘We are hoping that the likes of Carlow, Kilkenny and the Combined Counties will put squads together that this current squad can play and it will be an opportunity to see what is around the whole of Leinster. A couple of games fell through last year, so hopefully that can be corrected this time around”
“Dave and myself will be out looking at matches and the hope that the final quad l be truly representative of the whole of Leinster and not just pockets. That’s our ultimate ambition and we are working with the Leinster Football Association General Secretary Peter Doyle to achieve that goal,” concluded Malone.