FORMER LOUTH PLAYER Colm Nally says Dundalk’s dominance of the national soccer scene has left local Gaelic football teams with a battle to win over the hearts and minds of talented teenagers.
Several Louth minor footballers have quit the game to play underage soccer for Dundalk, according to Nally, with a view to ultimately making it in the first team.
It’s the inevitable consequence of the club’s thrilling progress both at home and abroad under Stephen Kenny though the GAA intend to fight their patch in the north-east.
Nally is a coaching tutor with the Leinster Council who have launched a new programme throughout the province to recruit former inter-county players for Award 1 Youth/Adult coaching courses.
There’s been a particularly high uptake in Louth with 23 ex-players including Seamus O’Hanlon, Ken and David Reilly and 2010 Leinster final goalkeeper Neil Gallagher all beginning the course in Darver last night.
The hope is that the players will progress to coaching locally and Nally reckons that, in Louth’s case, the mere presence and high profile of those players could help to convince young players to stick with Gaelic football.
Asked about Dundalk’s profile in the region, Nally said: “It’s massive, it is. You’d have a lot of players at 18 or 19 that would be part of Louth minor squads and part of the Dundalk U-19s too. They (Dundalk) have the full first pull on them at the minute.
They are following the dream. They have access to European football. The top League of Ireland players are all playing for Dundalk at the minute so their profile is quite high. They are all involved with them and they are all hoping to make the breakthrough.
“They are also all GAA players, all playing with their local clubs but we are hoping we can get a few of them to wear the red of Louth.
“There would be four or five fellas that would have played on our recent minor teams who are now playing with Dundalk and there is a few with Drogheda as well.”
Ex-Louth goalkeeper Nally said the ultimate aim is to keep Louth’s best young Gaelic footballers together.
“Louth is a great sporting county and it keeps producing great sports people, many of them successful players,” he said.
“From the Gary Kellys to the Ian Hartes, who have all played Gaelic football, Rob Kearney played with Cooley minors and seniors and his brother, Dave, they’ve all played so it’s a great sporting county and you’d love one day that they’ll all come together, those with the best potential, and just click.
“I think if we get one breakthrough team, the fellas will see that there’s a huge buzz to playing for your county.”
The 2010 Leinster final naturally sticks out as a huge PR opportunity that passed Louth by with Meath winning that game following a late goal that was awarded in error.
“I wasn’t playing at the time and was with my own kids when that match was on, they left the Cusack Stand to run down onto the pitch,” said Nally. “By the time they got to the bottom that famous goal was scored and they were devastated.
“I know they, like hundreds of other kids, were just devastated. They couldn’t believe it. That would have been a massive plus for us to win that.”
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