DUBLIN ladies football legend Cliodhna O’Connor is on the hunt to get the county’s senior hurlers moving in the right direction in her new role as the team’s athletic development coach.
The role sees her endeavouring to “support players to do what they need to do on the pitch”, with the 2010 All-Ireland winning goalkeeper, looking to employ the latest sport science methods to get the best from the side.
“It’s a big job,” she said at Centra’s launch of their support for the senior hurling championship, pointing to the need to tailoring solutions on a player-by-player basis.
“You have lots of variables; guys performing at the weekend, guys returning from injury and players who didn’t get much game time. I’d be very wary of someone who approaches my job with a one-size-fits-all model.
“Everyone is going to have different strengths/weaknesses and need different things.”
Focusing on what exactly a game-day looks like, her key focus is the warm-up before switching to the substitutes during the game, making sure everyone “is ready to fire” at the right time.
“When the players are in action, you’re trying to analyse the whole time. Game day is actually essential for me because that’s the most important part of my job: can they do what they’re required to do on the pitch? So, when they start playing I am always looking at that with a really keen eye.”
Being a woman in an all-male inter-county backroom team, the Naomh Mearnog club woman says that knowledge base is key to making sure no one makes an issue.
“From a player’s perspective you can quickly sniff out someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. If you’re delivering what you’re supposed to deliver, then everything is fine, whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you’re 20 or 72. It doesn’t matter. If players buy into it and feel they’re getting results they need and performing better because of your involvement, it really doesn’t matter who you are.”
Indeed, as an All-Ireland winner, O’Connor says her experience adds to the understanding of the game.
“As a player, you really don’t know what it’s like to be a coach and, as a coach, it does help you to know what it’s like from the other side.
“You can understand players better, you can read when they’re struggling or need more of one thing than another.”