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Dublin: 7°C Sunday 29 November 2020

How a local GAA team ended up coaching four-time European Cup winners Toulouse

Fabian Pelous wanted the lads to show his team how to catch a high ball.

TWO PAST PUPILS of St Flannan’s College in Ennis, Co. Clare had the privilege of conducting a lengthy coaching session at the home ground of four-time European Cup winners Toulouse last night.

12079116_927478620679769_2725400226299325402_n Some of the Toulouse rugby team's playing and coaching staff were given a lesson in high fielding by two Irishmen at the club's grounds last night. Paddy Clancy (in the Clare jersey) and Alan Hally in the shorts and white boots.

Paddy Clancy, from Kilrush, and Alan Hally, who grew up in Ennis have both been living in the French city for a number of years now and are members of the local GAA team, Tolosa Gaels.

And in the aftermath of Ireland’s defeat of France in the pool stages of the World Cup recently, so impressed were Toulouse with the Irish players’ high fielding of the ball that they enlisted help the easiest and fastest way possible.

The connection between Stade Toulousain (as they prefer to be called) and reigning French men’s champions Tolosa Gaels was provided by Guillame Kerrien, one of the founding members of the latter.

The club, incidentally, was inaugurated on the same night William Gallas scored ‘that’ goal against Ireland in 2009.

“Guillame organised an exhibition game of Gaelic football between France and Italy last November in Toulouse and we were part of it,” explained club secretary Hally.

“We had a friendly tournament as a warm-up and as part of it he invited French legend Vincent Clerc to be a sponsor.

“So he came on and put on the France jersey to play Gaelic.

“We kept in touch and when they watched the World Cup game with Ireland recently and saw how good the Irish players were, they felt it was to do with Gaelic football because Kearney and Tommy Bowe played underage and have exceptional high fielding ability,” he said.

French legend Fabian Pelous, a lifelong Toulousain, got wind of it and as the man in charge of all the training at the club he wanted to know more.

“He contacted Guillame,” continued Hally, “and asked could we come over to the club to do a ‘show and tell’ of the skill involved with catching.

“It was unbelievable opportunity so Paddy, myself, a Kiwi living here Mike Lawson and Guillame went up to the stadium last night.”

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Hally said they spent the last fortnight planning drills and coaching seminars.

12046946_10154286659032598_543764847618349424_n Guillame Kerrien, Fabian Pelous, Alan Hally and Mike Lawson after training in De Danu Irish bar in Toulouse last night.

“We had our homework done on it and just went about explaining a bit about Gaelic football, our own experiences of it and then we discussed how we jump up and high catch above the head in GAA. We did that for about an hour.”

All the coaches from U20 right down to U9 level were in attendance and after the various exercises and drills followed a Q&A session.

“They all had different questions for us, some for children’s teams and more guys were interested in how to develop it for the U16 and U17 teams.

“We broke it into 3 sections; I did a warm-up where we worked on balance jumping and landing on the same foot, Guillame had his own exercises more for the kids’ development to make it fun.

“Paddy had his exercises for when you’re moving, how you position your body and feet and getting your arms right.

“It was just a once off, but they videotaped the whole session and kept it on file for all their players and if they’ve questions they’ll come back to us.

“We got incredible feedback and we’ve been invited to play a hybrid game with their under 18s; half Gaelic football and half touch rugby.”

Hally explained that the fearsome reputation Pelous displayed on the field in his professional playing career couldn’t have been more opposed to the friendly nature of his personality off it.

“We went to the Irish bar in the city, the De Danu, owned by Trevor Brennan and Fabian paid for everything. It was a great evening.

“It’s brilliant for the club to get a profile like this and for our sponsors, Mulligans Irish bar, it’s especially great because it’s the focal point for all things Irish and Tolosa Gaels here.”

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Brian Canty

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