Friday, 20 December 2013

Breath on the window...

Every September, a weekly ritual begins that potentially defines some of the premiership stars of the future. After months and months of waiting hundreds of little people finally get to emerge from the summer doldrums and run back on to the fields of their dreams - football returns. From now onwards, weekend's hold a new meaning. Each Friday, school would finish and little people would head home with football on their minds. They would arrive at back doors and bags would be dropped, "I have no homework" they would shout and the weekend would begin. Yipee....
Most likely, each of these little ones would head upstairs, shed their uniforms, and emerge as stars...jerseys, shorts, school socks...they would head into the garden, set up their goals, and kick off their world cup finals....each, sinking to their knees as they scored the winning goal.
Reality would probably bite an hour later - "dinner" a parent would cry followed by "I'm not coming in"....and of course they did. For every parent had that armory of answers..."I've got your coach on the phone and your're not training if you don't get in"..."bed early tonight, training starts again tomorrow"...eventually, jersey in one hand teddy bear hanging from the other, socks at ankle height, up they would begins....and despite best intentions, no way they would sleep, off they drift....and their dreams took hold, shots, saves, crosses and passes, great tackles and goals all became real. School was over, Colga football begins.

And then, Saturday morning would kick off, early, very early, and a miracle occurs. Colga jerseys replacing the pyjamas thrown aside and after a week of being dragged out of bed, parents bedroom doors would be torn open as demands begin. "What time is training....we're going to be late" which a parent's tired reply, "it's only half six, go back to bed...". No way, for Saturday morning is football and would herald their chance to display all of those talents bunched up inside. And those of us parents would eventually give in...time to get up, preparations to begin.
Re-reading of texts probably started most days - training tomorrow so don't forget shinpads, the water, the jacket, the shorts, and on and on. And despite all best intentions, you will still start off late. But, never underestimate the importance of this day - for all of these little people, this is the most important date. In their eyes, you are not grumbling parents complaining about why training is so early, you are their greatest fan who is about to deliver them to their field of dreams.
And now, here we are, training finished for Christmas and dreams turned elsewhere, and whilst we may think these little people are dying for a break, in all likelihood it is us parents who need the out-take.
Each of these children are already counting the date - and tomorrow morning, as us parents sleep, these little people may rise without debate. For they have no football to go to, and, as they kneel peering out, breath on the window, they may carve out a small scene...a pitch, a goal, a ball, and some friends...and possibly, above, a man and his sleigh. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

And the gates closed gently

Early last Saturday morning I headed off to Oranmore to drop off my young man to the Colga under 8 training. I've been continuously impressed by the organisation of the managers of this team and last Saturday was no different. Cones laid out, balls ready, enthusiasm levels on a high as the little men hopped out of their cars full of life and ready for the most important date of their week...clutching their red and white shirts and pulling up their slightly too big red socks...fretting because their shin pads just would not stay their young eyes they were taking the first steps towards premiership ambitions.
And, as I looked around, I could see the cars pulling up....doors opening, not just one but 2, 3, 4 or five little people hopping out as they joined the under 5's, 6's, 7's and 8's girls and boys forming around their coaches and shouting with excitement. Fantastic. Each of the coaches and managers should be immensely proud of the work they are doing at this age group - without doubt setting the foundations for the future.

I left Oranmore and headed off to Kilcornan. It was close to 11am when I arrived and the place was packed. The under 11 league had just kicked off and two of Colga's teams were enjoying their first league experience. At the same time, on the pitch beside, Colga and Athenry were having a right battle in the under 13 league. And beside that game, on the training pitches, the clubs under 12 and 17s teams were busy at training. It was brilliant to be able to glance across our beautiful facility and see it crowded with activity.

What struck me wasn't just the football. I took a moment and looked the entrance, two of the club's longest serving members were shovelling stones and filling the pot-holes. Happily greeeting people as they entered but also intent on ensuring the entrance of the club was in pristine shape. Proud of their club, proud of their role, no one asked them to do it, it was just needed. And it makes a massive difference.
I took a glance left. A recent icon of the club, James, and the Little Red Wagon was surrounded by people. Cups of tea, sandwiches arriving, chats being had....Once again discussing the important things in life...a community in the woods. It struck me....players having just finished talking about achievements and horrendous decisions and ultimate league positions, parents arriving speculating on outcomes, referees in need of refreshments, and a place to meet, to reconvene, to talk about a sport we love......

Later that day, I was the last to leave. Trainings completed, matches won and lost, thirsts quenched with cups of tea, and visiting appetities eased by parential kindness. Before I turned to leave, I thought of all of the people who had made this possible. Those who had the belief...those who knew this field would host dreams and heartbreaks but who wanted to provide a home. I reflected. Today wasn't possible because of anything that I did. So many more have proceeded and driven. They have built a place to meet...somewhere the child counts time to get to each weekend.....somewhere a boy and girl feel the ability to aspire....somewhere the young adult feel they can connect....somewhere we all feel we can have a chat....we can take our kids to play....a place to call home amongst the woods.
Colga and Kilcornan may not yet have defined ourselves amongst the places of folklore where every player wants to play.... but we are on our way....and then, hands through the bars, I looked around this beautiful field, and I closed the gates gently.


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Any Given Saturday.....

The title of the movie was Any Given Sunday, starring Al Pacino and the American Football team, the Miami Sharks, but for me, it was all about last Saturday.
For anyone that wonders about the worth of a local, community based football club, you only had to be at Colga's grounds in Kilcornan last Saturday. Over the course of the day, from 9am until dusk, I'm guessing that close to a hundred players, coaches, parents, and the all important "I'm dragged to the match" siblings were at the pitches. Two great competitions were being played out in addition to training for our underage teams. What happened during the day really struck me.
I arrived up at the pitch around one o'clock. I was fresh from helping at a training session with under 7 Colga academy team, and, whilst inspired by their enthusiasm and energy, I was in dire need of a cup of tea. I was a little early to the pitch, 2pm kick off, but I was eagerly looking to the 3rd round of the FAI Irish up for my under 12 team. Of all the competitions we play in, this is by far my favourite - the chance to pit your worth against teams from all over the county, the provence, and, potentially, the island.
When I arrived, our under 14 team had just kicked off the 2nd round of the Connacht Cup (another great competion) against Hibs. There was a good crowd of parents supporting but at this early stage the atmosphere was relatively calm.
Shortly after, a group of cars arrived, and I greeted the secretary of St. Peters, from Athlone, who were our opponents for the under 12 cup match. The secretary was delighted, for 2 reasons, 1st, they found the ground, no easy feat, and 2nd, felt it was fantastic their team was getting the opportunity to play an away game in such beautiful surroundings....helped no doubt by the fact her team had won the previous round of this competition 11-0. It was great to see the cars pull up, park, and watch the players and parents hop out, look around, and enjoy the occassion. I got St. Peter's sorted just as my own lads were arriving for the match.
The next 30mins or so went as normal. Tog out and warm up and get ready. But, we couldn't help keep an eye on the under 14 connacht cup match which was unveiling beside us. Hibs 1-0 up until the very last minute...and then, almost beyond hope, Colga got an equaliser. Extra time.
At this stage, the under 12 match was due to kick off on the other pitch. So, off we went. You could not help being distracted....Under 14's....Colga score, 2-1, 10mins left...under 12's, Colga score 1-0 up....under 14's Hibs equalise, 2-2...under 12 Colga score 2-0...and then, under 14, Colga score 3-2, under 12 score 3-0, final whistle under 14, Colga win, through, 3-2, half time under 12, Colga winning 3-0. It was fantastic...parents, players, refs, coaches, supporting, playing, but all involved in 2 amazing matches side by side. And the noise...whistles, shouts, cries, wind, roars, laughs.........
As it turned out, the under 12 game ended 4-0 and my team managed to get through.
So, we walked off, Colga under 12's victorious, St. Peter's feeling very sad, but we all shared a cup of tea and a sandwich. The players, the coaches, the ref, the secretary, the parents, the siblings, and we chatted and spoke about football and all of the really important things in life........
What a day - what really struck me was the number of children, players, adults, and supporters all at the same place, involved in different activities, but all part of the same occasion. It signified the importance of "our" club and why involvement is so important.
It may not be like this on "any given Sunday"....or Saturday...but it certainly was last weekend.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Waiting for that text

It amazes me the power of the desire we feel as we want our respective teams to do well.  I was travelling home from abroad this Saturday and it meant missing my u12 team's Irish cup match. Unfortunate I thought, but, no bother, I'd get a text with the score when it was all done. I'd sit back at the airport, have a cuppa, and read the paper. The team was in great hands and there was nothing I could do.
Alas, little did I know how much I would fret as I sat at the airport waiting for the beep, the chirp, the little electronic noise that would confirming the win/loss/or draw. It was hell. I paced, I turned the phone off, then on, then off again...I ran through the scores a thousand times in my head. We won, we lost, it was definitely in extra time. Certainly, no paper or cup of coffee....

Finally, the ping came....I waited, touched the envelope icon, looked away, partially covered the screen, and then yelped with relief...thankfully, we won. And, I know, my delight was another coaches despair.

I write about this as I want to emphatise with all of the managers and coaches out there who give so  much of their time and energy. Involvement in coaching is wonderful and rewarding but also stressful and irritating. The hours of training in howling winds and screaming rain....when you're hands are so cold your bum becomes the heater...when you stand on the sideline pretending you are calm and cool only to follow yourself seconds later sprinting towards the goal. When you miss that match yet yearn for that result.
But, please, always know, the impact that you have as a coach is so wonderful and impactful. Some of the greatest influencers on young lives are those that dedicate their time and passion to the coaching and development of young people as they grow as individuals as part of a team.

Certainly, from us all here in Colga, we recognise this and we salute you all. Thank you to all the wonderful coaches and managers we have in this club. 


Friday, 13 September 2013

new manager, new hope, grass roots excitement

Another big week in Irish Football. End of the Trap era and no doubt lots of different emotions and feelings at the grassroots level. Achievement wise, getting close to one world cup, qualifying for the European finals, looks a worthwhile accomplishment. As a football fan, and someone dedicated to working with young players, my own personal view was one of dissappointment over the past 5 years. It is sad to see the style of play from an Irish football team and certainly not an approach I would encourage at our club. My hope is the association will make the right choice and invests into a manager and structure which encourages the overall development of the game. My one true desire is to rediscover my love and care for our international football team.

On a more local note, this weekend and next marks the start of two of the most significant competitions on the Juvenile football stage and creates lots of grassroots and local excitement - this is where the game is truly loved and played. The Connacht Cup kicks off for our juvenile teams this weekend and represents the opportunity to play against some of the best teams across the county. Next weekend, the underage FAI (All-Ireland) competitions kick off and is one of the most exciting competitions to be a part of. As a player it was a competition that I loved as it provided the chance to travel and meet teams from such diverse areas. Needless to say, I'm hoping Colga will prove ourselves on the field but most importantly I hope our players get the opportunity to take part in 2 historical competitions which have proved the breeding ground for so many successful players

Also want to wish Gerry Martin and our junior mens team the best of luck in the 1st round of the Junior FAI cup. A daunting fixture away to Mervue on Sunday awaits. Good luck lads.


Saturday, 7 September 2013

New Juvenile Season

Today marks the beginning of the boys juvenile season for Colga. Teams representing Colga from u11-u17 will begin their 9month long journey across the county, the provence, and maybe even across the country. There will no doubt be joy and sorrow, laughter or tears, hugs and kicks, and the full gammit of every other emotion as players and managers seek the holy grail of success in league and cup competitions.
If you get the chance, have a few minutes to spare, come up to a game and support the players. It may be a turn, a move, a shot or a save but it will be a moment to share and you are all welcome.
We are a proud club with fantastic players and managers and we wish them all the best this season.


Friday, 30 August 2013

All Ireland Final - Colga Ladies, Sunday, Sept 1st, 3pm

Sunday marks the highlight of the year for ladies junior football in Ireland. We are proud that Colga's ladies junior team will complete in the FAI All Ireland final this coming Sunday. For those of us who have grown up playing and loving the game, you know well the sense of achievement and excitement to get the opportunity to play in the biggest game on the football calendar. For year's, through the work of so many people, Colga has focused in developing the girls and ladies game - on Sunday, the culmination of all of that effort goes on display against Douglas of Cork. I can but wish Dave Morrissey and the team all the best of luck on Sunday. Kick off is 3pm in Fahy's Field in Mervue - it would be great to see as many Colga supporters as possible at the match.


Monday, 26 August 2013

Beginning of new season

The new mens/boys season kicked off yesterday with Gerry Martin's team beating Cois Fharraige 2-1 in our opening game. Great way to get things going - the junior team have another game Thursday evening away to Medtronic...a team that was promoted last season.
The season opens for the underage male teams on Saturday, Sept 7th, with matches already scheduled for each one of our teams (u16/15/14/13/12s) over the weekend - all of the fixtures are up to date on

The club is also preparing for our junior ladies FAI Cup final which takes place in Fahy's Field, Mervue, on Sunday, September 1st. The game against Douglas of Cork should prove a humdinger so please keep an eye on our web site + facebook page for final details. This is a proud moment for the club.

Good luck to all of the players across the junior and juvenile teams as the season kicks off.


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

John Delaney took time out to visit us at our grounds in Kilcornan recently to witness the seeding of our newest pitch & also see how our facilities in general are growing!