Collaborative approach key to development

The Galway FA and Galway United are working together at U16 level

Galway FA U16 coach Dave Silke.

Galway FA U16 coach Dave Silke.

Though the Galway FA’s U16 team suffered a final defeat against Cork in Sunday’s inter-league final, significant progress has been made on and off the field of play.

The implementation of the national underage leagues brings both possibilities and challenges. Not every player will be able to progress smoothly through that system so Dave Silke and Gerry Martin have spearheaded a new approach in the west.

Acknowledging that several of the U16 Galway FA had previously featured for Galway United, they have worked in conjunction with United head of academy Johnny Glynn.

“It has been a great season, I remember Seán McGlynn from the Galway FA and myself had a conversation back in January about the gap year we recognised at U16 level,” Silke explains.

“You had a lot of players that would have played in the League of Ireland with Galway United at U15, some of them progressed to U17, but for lots of different reasons a number of players didn't make it or didn't want to go back into the League of Ireland at U17.

“So we had a conversation and said it would be great if we could pull together an inter-league team for Galway at U16 representing the GFA, but doing it in collaboration with Galway United.”

Ultimately, it meant that Silke wanted to ensure that the emerging players were provided with quality training. “We tried to do it at the highest level in terms of a professional approach, to really give the lads an opportunity on a couple of levels,” he says. “One, to continue to playing at a really high level and secondly, for those lads interested in potentially getting back into League of Ireland U17, it gives them that opportunity with the collaboration between the GFA and Galway United.

“We were disappointed to lose the final, but I think the objectives that we set was really focused on the development of the players. The collaboration between the GFA and Galway United, we were very proud at the end of the season.”

Silke, though, affords significant credit to the manner in which local clubs in the Galway FA backed and supported the project.

“There was a balance, but there was also great buy in from Johnny Glynn at Galway United, from Seán McGlynn with the Galway Football Association, and from all of the clubs,” he responds.

“You are doing this right in the middle of the GFA club season. One of the things Seán wanted to drive was that if we were going to do this that we had to do it as a league centre, as part of the Galway Football Association approach.

“So back in February - we have been doing this for five months - we invited the players in from about 15 clubs. We went through the assessments, about 45 players we started with and we ended up with a squad of 19 which still represented seven clubs. We had Oranmore, Athenry, Mervue, Salthill Devon, Colga, Tuam, and Knocknacarra.

“In fairness to every single one of the clubs and their managers they gave us the opportunity to get the lads together once a week every Friday. On the alternative weekends when there wasn't primarily U16 league games then we got together to play matches as part of the representative side. There was great collaboration between the clubs, the GFA, and Galway United.”

Silke is hopeful that this is merely the start of a new venture, that the Galway FA and Galway United can continue to work closely.

“You have seen the collaboration between Galway United and the GFA at U12 level,” Silke says. “I was involved with that squad too along with Seán, Ger McGrath, Ben Talbot, Johnny, and the team.

“That was very important as you lead into Kennedy Cup and the first underage League of Ireland structure at U14. You have U14 and U15 League of Ireland, then you have a gap to U17 and U19.

“We came across a lot of different clubs, and I'm in the middle of doing my UEFA B badge and I spoke to a lot of other coaches at Finn Harps and elsewhere. Nobody else was doing this collaboration at U16 level. Across the board, including from the FAI there was absolute agreement it needed to be addressed.”

Assisting young players to progress and flourish should be the ultimate aim according to Silke. “In a lot of circumstances things aren't in place and it is easy to say it should be this or it should be that, but there is also an obligation on each of us to identify where there are gaps - to do something about it,” he adds.

“That is the thing we are most proud of in Galway, the fact that we set up a very professional structure. We ended up playing 10 games over the course of the last five or six months. We did a lot of work on video analysis, a full professional approach.

“Moving forward I think it is such a critical area and age as you move from the transition of schoolboy football at U16 to the beginning of mens football and adult football at 17 and 18.”

**Listen to the full interview with Galway FA U16 manager Dave Silke on this week’s ‘Cian on Sport’ podcast available on Soundcloud, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.

 

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