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Facing 'loudmouths' during time as Galway boss, and teaching coaches new ways to improve players

Kevin Walsh stepped down as manager of the Tribesmen last September.

Updated Jun 18th 2020, 12:00 PM

THE FORMER GALWAY management team thought they had hit a wall when their new coaching initiative was shelved by Covid-19 earlier this year.

kevin-walsh Kevin Walsh [file photo]. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Kevin Walsh, who stepped down as the football boss last September, began this project in 2018 when he founded GrowCoach along with his former selectors Brian Silke and Seán Conlon.

All three played together before moving into the coaching sphere while Silke is the brother of 1998 All-Ireland winning captain, Ray.

Their time at the helm with Galway brought league promotion, an All-Ireland semi-final appearance, and Connacht silverware although their final years in charge were dogged by criticism. Some of the judgement was quite nasty and included some fans approaching Walsh after games.

Remaining a strong coaching team, they came up with the idea to deliver workshops for GAA mentors at all levels and empower them with training strategies that will improve their players. The response so far has been positive, with the trio putting an emphasis on off the ball movement in their teachings.

Social distancing restrictions called a halt to their workshops, but the GrowCoach team are still imparting their knowledge to coaches through webinar sessions which were launched today.

“We felt there was an area out there that hadn’t been exploited,” Walsh explained to The42 about what inspired them to develop the GrowCoach idea.

“We were looking at an awful lot of Gaelic football and even looking at the analysis that’s gone on for the last 20 or 30 years. When you’re deeply involved in the thing, you’re trying to find extra inches. It’s amazing, you find a lot of stuff which we brought to different groups and they’ve been enthralled by it.

A lot of it would be off the ball and off the ball doesn’t mean defence. Off the ball means attack and defence. So how can you impact the game when you’re off the ball is a lot of what we’re looking at.”

Walsh has dipped into his basketball and football backgrounds to contribute to the GrowCoach model, and feels the combined knowledge of all three coaches is worth passing on to the next generation.

kevin-walsh-and-selectors-brian-silke-and-john-conlon Walsh alongside his former Galway selectors Brian Silke and Seán Conlon. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We really believe a lot of this is being left out of coaching sessions and the fact we’ve been doing so much delving into that over the years, we found there was too much there to leave under the locker.

“It’s something we feel very passionate about, we get on very well together and stepping back from Galway has taken a bit of the pressure off to look at something else.”

Walsh says he’s happy to put the bainisteoir bib down for now, and channel his energy into this form of coaching after ending a five-year stint as Galway manager.

The aforementioned criticism could be quite scathing at times, and many argued that Galway’s style of play was too negative and defensive under the former midfielder’s reign.

“Absolutely not, bar once or twice after one or two matches,” he responds when asked if fans ever abused him in person.

“You’d have one or two irate people with their own agendas whatever they may be. You can never stop people from doing that because there can be loads of agendas; geographical rubbish talk, different club players. If things don’t happen exactly the way they want it, they mightn’t have the personality to hold back their feelings.

You’ll always hear the 0.2% that are loudmouths and want to be heard. People who are happy don’t actually hate so much because that’s the way it is, you get on with your life and enjoy the matches.

“You’d always have a little bit and that’s part of life. When you take up a job like that, there’s going to be a little bit of that no matter what you do. As a manager, you sign up for that and move on.”

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Despite the divided feeling towards him as a manager, Walsh still takes an interest in Galway’s progress and was impressed by their strong start to the National League under his former team-mate Pádraic Joyce. 

The Tribesmen were one point ahead of Kerry at the top of the Division 1 table before the Covid-19 shutdown. Walsh says the pair spoke when Joyce was first appointed to the position and can see that the legendary forward is already beginning to impress his vision on how they play.

kevin-walsh-speaks-to-johnny-heaney Walsh giving instructions to Galway's Johnny Heaney. Source: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

“I’d be talking to Pádraic every so often. But since he got the job, things came on so quickly that I certainly wouldn’t be sticking my nose in for the first few months. It’s important that they bring their own thing to the table and look on what good has been there and see where they can improve it.

“You’re trying to bring the shirt to a different place and improving on what you picked up on is all you can do.

“It’s a case of just doing what you can do and I’m sure Pádraic will put his own style on it and he’s starting to do that now.

“The guys in their 20s now need to step up and lead it. Once you step over the white line, there’s not a lot more any manager can do.”

Walsh has always appreciated the power of reflection and the past few months spent in lockdown have afforded him the chance to look back on his time as Galway manager and assess.

He holds some regrets about the “nine or 10 injuries” that hampered their progress last year and laments the fact that an All-Ireland title eluded them in the end. 

“You’d regret sometimes that you didn’t go the whole way. But then again, hopefully the next group will do that.

“There’s always going to be one or two matches where we just didn’t perform on the day and that can be awful annoying but every team will have that in Ireland.”

You can find out more details about GrowCoach here

First published today at 07.30

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