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Longford's Gesture To Underage Players Is An Example To All

Longford's Gesture To Underage Players Is An Example To All
Gavin Cooney
By Gavin Cooney
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Following a week of chatter about players bending their career choices to suit their GAA careers, the Association and the relevant teams have been criticised for demanding too much of amateur players, to the detriment of their lives away from the game.

One county not open to that charge are Longford, who have been quietly doing their bit to give their young players the best possible chance in life. Their policy of offering free Leaving Cert and Junior Cert grinds to members of their development squads has been running since last year, but a single tweet this week was enough to bring it to a wider attention.


Damien Sheridan, Longford's erstwhile goalkeeper and now working as a Games Development Administrator for the county, told Balls that the scheme began last year, with the county board running Leaving Cert grinds in Irish and Maths (at both honours and pass level) for the Leaving Cert students among their development squads. This year, they've extended it to include Junior Cert Maths. Its genesis was part of the "2020" committee formed in Longford four years ago, with the stated aim of leaving underage football in Longford in a better place by the titular year.

In addition, the county board offers a careers service to their Leaving Cert students, all with the aim of setting their players up in courses that they will both enjoy and endure, ideally choosing a related career.


It's all about "doing right by the players", says Sheridan, "to get work and to do jobs that they're happy with. And if you’re happy with your work life, it is easier to play football at a high level".

It has another football element, too.

One of the big things is that the players go to college and we give them the confidence to play football in college. When we started out, a county like Roscommon and Cavan had something like 15 players playing Sigerson football, whereas in Longford it was only two.

They are counties similar in location, okay a little different in size, but there shoudn’t be that disparity in numbers. So we felt they just weren’t confident, so we wanted to try and correct that and give them a leg up and the confidence to play with the big boys .

Longford are realistic enough to see the benefit to them of the scheme. As Sheridan explains, Longford must make the most of their relatively scarce resources.

It’s to get the most out of the good players we have. When we have a squad at under-14 level, it would be very rare that a player will come through to play at senior level that didn’t play underage.

In Longford, we generally know who our players are at 14, 15,16. Then it’s up to us to put the work in, as this is the group we are going to rely on.

It’s a big thing to work with the players and their parents to ensure they are comfortable with their schoolwork, and hopefully there will be loyalty to playing football with Longford in the years to come.



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