Shane Walsh. Ben Brady/INPHO
Shane Walsh

'I’d love to portray it to the next generation' - Coaching plans and Galway's rematch with Armagh

Galway attacker aims to create a service for 13-16 year olds to take the next step in their playing careers.

IT MIGHT SURPRISE you to know that Shane Walsh did not make it onto the U14 Galway football development squad.

A year later, he thought he had a chance for the U15 team. But he didn’t get there.

Nor did it happen at U16 level either.

Luckily for him, there were others tracking his progress at that age, offering gentle encouragements.

By the time he was a 14-year-old playing minor championship for Kilkerrin-Clonberne, he was kicking frees off the ground. His former principal in Clonberne school, Peader Brandon, enforced a rule for Walsh that he had to use his left foot instead of his favoured right in training matches.

If he kicked with his right, Master Brandon would peep the whistle. Free for the opposition.

Fr Ollie Hughes was another, when he went to St Jarlath’s. Watching Walsh kick frees off the ground with his right foot, he set him a target of doing it with his left foot also.

Walsh’s physical progression took a while to come, but he stands now as an All-Star with four Connacht titles with Galway, a reigning All-Ireland club champion with Kilmacud Crokes, having just recently celebrated his 30th birthday.

The guidance he received has inspired a series of ‘Upskill’ coaching camps he will host across Ireland from Monday for six consecutive weeks.

The idea had been bubbling away under the surface for a time and is aimed at those players who may feel as he once did; in some way left out of the system.

There’s an altruistic bent to it. As a PE teacher in Dublin, Walsh was privy to conversations happening among teenagers and a recurring theme of their summer breaks was the lack of activities available.

“The Cúl camps have everything from 5 up to 12. That period from 13, 14, to 16, they have nothing there to give them an opportunity to play, to give them as aspiration towards playing for their county,” explains Walsh.

“So that’s what I was thinking of, putting on a camp that might replicate in some ways what an intercounty session might look like.

“You are giving them a look into that. It might be an idle enough time when they are just playing with their club. It is a challenging thing for them to meet us, and other people in other clubs and train with them.”

There is an interesting debate to be had over the overall effectiveness of development squads. Some players are never mapped until they are playing at senior level. Not being in that system did no harm to Walsh who, along with David Clifford, are the greatest exponents of bilateral skills in the game.

“A lot of people don’t realise about county football, that it’s a lot about doing the basics well and doing them at a higher level. That requires a speed of thought. You have to be able to get to the ball and thereafter, how quick is your head looking up in a crowded area and what can you see?


“I was training an under-14 team last night in Kilmacud. And I was making them aware that when they are trying to evade a tackle and somebody is standing to one side of you. If you try to pass on that side, the defender will have a greater chance of blocking it, rather than me using the other hand and moving away from the defender.

“It’s little things like that. What does it require? It requires that bilateral play that you can use both sides of your body.

“It’s the exact same with blocking, I would do it on right foot, left foot. You are trying to evade the defender and if a defender knows what foot you kick with, then it’s great to be able to check back and go in the other direction to kick off the other side. That’s where I want to go with this.”

He continues, “For me, the thing I notice about being to play off either side is the timing. They always say time is precious when you are playing football and getting on the ball.

“But if a defender doesn’t know what way you are going to go with the ball, well then you have them guessing. You have more time to take as you can step left or right.

“That’s the way, I suppose, I play the game myself. I’d love to portray it to the next generation of intercounty Gaelic footballers.”

Showing initiative in this sense isn’t always universally appreciated. In 2020, Dublin footballer Dean Rock advertised his services for a kicking masterclass. That it was a commercial venture led to some puzzling criticisms.

That example does not deter Walsh.

“It’s something I want to be remembered, something I want to continue. I do feel there is a need for it. It isn’t about Shane Walsh trying to do something.

“And it’s not exclusively for the players who are already on the road. Not everyone makes an intercounty Development Squad. You are trying to give them the best chance they can.

“Rather than them sitting at home wishing they were at a certain level, they can use this as a stepping stone. All you are trying to do is whet the appetite of these kids.”

The day before he takes his first camp, he will be in Carrick-on-Shannon as Galway face Armagh in the final round of group games.

Armagh made a serious play to have the venue switched to Croke Park, subsequently turned down by the Central Competitions Control Committee.

Despite being in the same province, Walsh has limited experience of Pairc Sean MacDiarmaida, his only game there a 1-13 to 0-8 win in the 2015 Connacht championship.

“It’s a neutral venue, it could be anywhere. The GAA control that side of things regards where you go. You just have to do what you are told,” he says.

“I’d love to see maybe more neutral games in that regards. Croke Park is being used as a home maybe too much for all games. It’s actually lovely to go and play in the smaller grounds around the country.

shane-walsh-with-fans-after-the-game Walsh with Galway fans after the Kerry league game. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“Even matches played in Pearse Stadium a couple of weeks ago, now we are playing in Carrick on Shannon. You wish there were more of them. I always feel some National League games could be played at a neutral venue. It would be lovely to bring people into an area where you haven’t played before.

“I’d love to finish my career and be able to say I have played in every stadium in Ireland. But it would be hard.”

Galway and Armagh enter the same competition, but there’s still in-built inequalities caused by the provincial structure.

This weekend, Armagh will be playing their seventh championship game in eleven weeks. By contrast, Galway have played two games less at this stage. One of them being New York.

“To date, we haven’t had it too bad,” acknowledges Walsh.

“The biggest thing is that players don’t miss out on games. You don’t want players to be getting injured because you have too many games in too short a window. That’s the only thing you would hold reservations over as a short window like that, competitive games being played like that, you think it might be the one thing that falters.

“But it’s interesting. I like the neutral venues. It can be easy to go to Croke Park but I am sure people in Leitrim will have a serious interest around the town on the day. The weather is nice, I think it adds to the occasion, these places.”

Last year, they faced Armagh in the All-Ireland quarter-final, a contest that was brought to extra-time and then penalties that Galway came out on the right side of. The prize at stake for Galway is to draw or better, therefore ensuring they top the group and don’t have to face a preliminary quarter final the next weekend.

“Every team wants to improve,” Walsh states.

“We see ourselves how close Armagh came to win the Ulster final as well a few weeks ago. Last year they weren’t at that stage so they are improving all the time.

“We have to improve just the same, so I am not keen on driving your car and constantly looking at it through the rear-view mirror.”


* ‘Upskill’ camps will take place across a variety of venues, with Kilmacud Crokes (19 June), Clonakilty (26 June), Sarsfields, Kildare (3 July), St Eunan’s Letterkenny (10 July), Castlebar Mitchels (17 July) and Kilkerrin-Clonberne (24 July), for boys and girls between the ages of 13-16. Further details on

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel