We were a talented bunch of players that all came through around the same time in my club. We won pretty much everything there was to win underage and everyone in the parish thought it was only a matter of time before we made the senior breakthrough. But the breakthrough wouldn’t come. We are by no means a special case or a unique story. How many clubs have you seen dominate at underage level but then do nothing at senior. Well, that was us.
The reasons for this were all the usual stuff – drink, emigration, working in Dublin and can’t commit to training, and just lack of application pure and simple. Our team of underage heros slowly grew older but no senior county final was landed. By the time myself and the rest of the lads were 25 or so the officials in the club decided a different approach was required. They had waited long enough. Things had to change. Out went our incumbent trainer, the man who had guided us to many of our underage successes – a local man, as good a trainer as you would find anywhere. The theory among the club officials was that we had become too chummy with him. In his place came the hired gun.
The hired gun is fairly prevalent in the GAA today. There are many hired guns, and they are all of course different; but they also have many things in common. First of all there are two main types of hired gun. The first is the ex intercounty star. Couple of All Ireland’s in the arse pocket, works in sales during the day, fond of a pint, rumour has it he gambles a bit too much. The second type is the young teacher. While he may not have won any senior All Irelands or All Stars he did hurl Fitzgibbon before injury got in the way. The ex intercounty trainer drives an Audi A4 and wears golf shoes on the sideline, the young teacher has a Volkswagen Golf and favours Puma Kings. Both types will inevitably end up going on the beer with the players at some point during the season, usually in an attempt at team building. Young teacher sips on bottles of Bud and spends the night chatting to the club officials in the lounge before getting collected by his young wife at half ten. Ex intercounty, borderline alcoholic, gets dragged into rounds of Jaegerbombs with the players and ends up shifting the corner forwards sister.
The first hired gun we were assigned was of the intercounty variety. Now, the fact he is an ex intercounty man means he needs no introduction, but this doesn’t stop our chairman from giving him one anyway. The first training session of the year, in November of course and our chairman spends half an hour telling all us players how lucky we are to be working with mr intercounty this year and how much the club appreciates him taking us on. All the while mr intercounty just stands there with his arms folded, nodding intermittently beneath a peaked cap. Thanks chairman. OK lads, do a few stretches there then give me four laps, and no cutting corners; there is going to be no cutting corners this year. Quality. Rumour has it he was getting €80 a night to train us. After we lost our first three league games he increased our training from three to four nights a week. Funny that. Looking back now the club must have spent at least ten grand that year on trainer expenses just to watch us lose a quarter final.
The young teacher came in the following year and by all accounts he was much cheaper. The club funds had taken a hit from the year before so we had to cut our cloth. But this lad seemed sound. He was enthusiastic at least and his drills were like something from Cirque du Soleil. He spent more time explaining how to do the drills than we would spend actually doing them. We would run around for 20 minutes warming up then spend the next half hour standing in the cold trying to decipher this latest drill. There would be sliotars flying left right and centre and pulled hamstrings dropping lads like they were shot. Young teacher lasted a couple of seasons with us but we still never got beyond a semi final.
We have been through quite a few trainers at this stage. None of them have guided us to the promised land. After our fifth different trainer in seven years the officials in our club copped on the fact it was the players that were the problem not the trainers. They could have spent 50 grand on Brian Cody or Nicky English and we would still have got the sh@t beaten out of us. So the club brought back our old underage trainer and spent the money elsewhere. The club installed new dugouts and a scoreboard over the winter just gone. Money well spent.