A new method to GAA training

When we think of GAA players, we often discuss how fast they are on the pitch, how good they are at scoring goals, or how good they are at a certain position on the field. One thing that is often forgotten about however, yet remains imperative for GAA players to master, is their catching skills.

GAA Pitch - Sean MacEntee

GAA Pitch – Sean MacEntee

The importance of enhancing players catching skills can often be forgotten about during training. That’s where Crazy Catch comes in. Crazy Catch is the brand new method to improve catching skills in GAA training. We caught up with Frank Clune, who brought this product to Ireland, to learn a little bit more about it.

Frank has pondered long on the fundamental but neglected skill of Gaelic football – ball handling. Travelling through Australia brought him face to face with the reality of the current state of Gaelic’s most important, most effective but most under-appreciated fundamental skill.

Frank during his trip

Frank during his trip

When compared with the handling skills of other large ball sports – netball, basketball, American Football and most obviously Aussie Rules – those of Ireland’s most popular sport pale in comparison. The reason is not size, nor more difficult and different sport-specific problems, as Gaelic footballers easily match up to the physical qualities of each of the above sports, use a ball similar to both basketball and netball, heavier than one lighter than the other and in the chaos of the battle for possession come under no more pressure than the melee-type war we see in Aussie Rules.

In fact, based on the ball shape of Aussie Rules and the pressure they are under when meeting the ball as well as a host of opponents upon moment of impact, Gaelic football in contrast should present an environment that at least equals its catching and handling skills. Sadly, it doesn’t. But with such a realisation comes great opportunity.

FC believes that one of the keys to Gaelic football progress is lying under the sport’s nose and has been since 2006 when the player of the year, Kieran Donaghy, inspired Kerry to All-Ireland glory using those impeccable, basketball created handling skills. With limited kicking and ball-travelling capability, Donaghy transformed Kerry’s attack by presenting an un-markable and unplayable skill-set. Once Kerry hit a somewhat decent ball in Donaghy’s direction no marker could deal with his fielding and lay-off skills such was the superiority of his ball handling. He literally kept the ball off his opponents with an ease akin to teenagers bullying their younger brothers’ friends. Running parallel was the Kilkenny train who regardless of the physical dimensions of their players ‘ruled the skies’. Aerial battles were won time and again by the Kilkenny juggernaut.

GAA Match - Rosegreen Community

GAA Match – Rosegreen Community

Eleven years later and we have not seen a Gaelic football team build on what was a fundamental success. Prior to this, Tyrone managed to tactically outsmart the fielding skills of Dara O Se and immediately the sport knee-jerked to copy the style of engulfing the fielder. But this has not sat right as a solution. The question remains – what if all 15 players had the handling skills of Aussie Rules players or what if, like the all-conquering Kilkenny team, a single team ‘ruled the skies’?

So how did Crazy Catch come to Ireland?

On his trip around Australia, Frank encountered a culture that fundamentally valued, from underage to senior, the catch. It was coached, valued, developed and put on a pedestal as the ultimate skill. Of course, in Aussie Rules it appears to have more value as one receives a mark once a ball is caught cleanly. But, what if that same value, development and coaching was put on catching in Gaelic football? Regardless of management preference – a kicking or through-the-hands running style of play – unerring and fast hands are the key to playing the game at its most effective. He also encountered Crazy Catch.

Crazy Catch is a resource that can play a huge part in this movement. It is a shiny new toy, and everyone likes a shiny new toy, however it is incredibly effective and by far the market leader in terms of quality. Balls rebound at high speed to the thrower/ fielder in a uniform trajectory or alternatively at a random angle preparing players for the reality of the field game. It is ideal for developing single hand ball skills, double handed catch, the low difficult ball that tends to be supplied to inside forwards and even the high looping balls generally delivered from goalkeeper to midfielder.

Frank said:

Key to this movement is the acknowledgement that catching and fielding skills can only be truly developed through a process of value and emphasis.

As learned in that other Antipodean outpost of New Zealand, where the Maori preach ‘Te tangata te tangata te tangata’, ‘It is people it is people it is people’, only people can transform a sport. Crazy Catch resources on their own cannot transform Gaelic football, but Crazy Catch is a key player in developing the skill of quality handling that at present resides firmly miles behind the equivalent skills in its sister sports and presents its greatest opportunity for progress. The sport’s premier skill, defining and separating it from the Saxon influence of soccer, is its final frontier.

We met up with Frank to learn a little bit more about the product, and more importantly to see it in action.

If you would like to learn more about Crazy Catch you can follow them on twitter: @crazycatch @FrankSportPsych