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Mark O'Donnell photo - recently appointed Schools Coaching & Development Officer

1. Who was your hurling hero growing up ?

Throughout my underage years I usually played at centre back so for obvious reasons Seánie McMahon was my idol. He was a real leader in Clare teams of the 90's/early 00's - and his ability to win aerial ball was so impressive!

2. Most memorable sporting moment as a player or supporter ?

Player - hearing the final whistle at our U21 County Final a few years ago, I just remember falling to my knees and holding back the tears - it was my first county medal with my club (St. Breckan's).

Supporter - Conor McGrath's goal in the 2013 All-Ireland Hurling Final Replay ... I was lucky enough to be at the very back of Hill 16!

3. Who is your favourite hurler?

Silly question it can only be one man ... TK (Tony Kelly)

4. Who is your favourite camogie player ?

Aisling Thompson - the Paul Galvin of Ladies' GAA

5. What's your favourite sport other than hurling and why?

Hurling is by far my favourite sport to play, coach, watch, read about, etc. I like all kinds of sport and to be honest I couldn't pick my 2nd favourite. I like Gaelic football, soccer, rugby, golf, and I'd always keep an eye on the various US Sport's Teams based in Boston as I've family over there.

6. What is your education background ?

I attended a very small rural primary school with about 40-50 pupils, followed by secondary school in the famous Lisdoonvarna. I studied Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Limerick for four years, and here am I today!

7. How did you get into coaching ?

As part of my degree in UL I was required to go on work placement for a period of six months. I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to work with Clare GAA Coaching and Games under the guidance of Clare GDA and close friend/former coach of mine, Peter Casey. Over the last 18 months I gained a vast amount of experience in the fields of coaching, strength & conditioning, statistics/gameplay analysis and performance testing; however my favourite aspect of coaching is that of schools coaching. I guess it was during this time that I developed a real grá for all aspects of coaching!

8. Tell us about your schools coaching experience in Clare ?

Thus far in my coaching career, I have been privileged to coach children in approximately 30 primary schools, predominantly in South and East Clare. It has been a real pleasure to work with children who are so passionate about our great game of hurling/camogie. The role of the coach is made much easier when we have such talented hurlers in Clare like Tony Kelly, Podge Collins, Conor McGrath, etc - because all children want to emulate their hurling idols. And I'll have no shortage of hurling idols to use for example while I'm here at Liam Mellows!

9. What role do schools play in the promotion and development of hurling and camogie ?

In my opinion, a schools coaching programme is imperative to provide a link between the family home and the GAA club. Each year GAA clubs needs fresh faces (new child members) coming through its gates in order for the club to prosper over time. Schools and clubs need to liaise in order for this to happen year in year out. If children can learn the basics of hurling/camogie at school, it makes life much easier for the club coach who can then spend time developing more advanced aspects of the game.

10. What are the basic skills that players from 6 to 12 years should focus on ?

In an ideal scenario, by the time a child is leaving primary school they have developed the following; 1) competent fundamental movement skills; 2) grip and swing mechanics; 3) lift and strike from the hand. However we do not live in a perfect world and it's important to realise that no two kids are the same -skill development does not follow a linear progression i.e. players develop at different rates, and there will be periods of growth, plateau & regression - but it's all part of growing up and learning the game!

11. Best advice for young hurlers and camogie players ?

We live in a technological era so instead of banning them from the home, let children embrace our modern cyber world! Why not watch the Sunday Game or hurling videos on YouTube (supervised) - who are the best players on view, and take a leaf from their book! Why is Joe Canning so good at sideline cuts? How does Austin Gleeson score from huge distances? How come Tony Kelly can strike off both sides? What has helped Niamh McGrath be so successful for Galway? A young child or teenager may not know the answers to any of those questions - I myself don't know the correct answer! However one thing is commonplace - PRACTICE. It is truly amazing what can be achieved with a hurley, a wall ball, a wall and 20 spare minutes. Repetition of striking and catching is hugely important for a hurler or camogie player at any age, at any level!

12. What advice would you give to parents of young hurlers and camogie players ?

 Get educated - period! Whether you won an All-Star, played from time-to-time or don't even originally hail from a Irish background - hurling is for EVERYBODY! Life is a learning process, and hurling is no different. The best way for a child to reach their full potential is for their parents to play an active role. Children love interacting with their parents when they play sport - they strive for praise and feedback. There are numerous online resources readily available on YouTube and GAALearning for everybody's benefits. Naturally the best way to gain experience and thus understanding of hurling is to volunteer by assisting a club coach or attending one of the many coaching courses ran throughout the year! You'd be surprised how quickly you learn - the key is to get stuck in!

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