It is very fast and furious, but I think I could have been good at this game!
When I was offered this opportunity to work with Erin’s Isle, I was quite nervous to be honest. Firstly, because I didn’t know if both the people in the community and the players knew who I was. The idea was that a successful manager, or former manager, takes over a Gaelic football team, but I didn’t know if they would know who I was. So I had no idea what sort of welcome I was going to get and I was a bit nervous about that.
More importantly, I was worried about not knowing enough about the game to make a difference. I had to think long and hard about how I could make a difference without all the necessary knowledge. I play golf in London with an Irish friend, Tony O'Brien, and I had heard of Gaelic football and had seen some random footage on TV, but I didn’t know the rules.
I didn’t know anything apart from it being a very physical and fast sport. That was my first impression and now I know it is fast; very fast and furious!
It’s played at an unbelievable tempo and it’s also extremely physical, so you need to be skilful and you need to be strong. I like the fact that players just get on with the game, they don’t complain; they fight hard, but they don’t moan, so it’s very different from other sports.
It has the skill of football (soccer), the high score of basketball and the physical contact you get in rugby so it’s an all-round game and you need to be very much an all-rounder to play this game. I think I could have been good at it!
Having the ability with my feet first. I was a decent basketball player and could play volleyball too, so maybe I could have had the right skills with my hands! I also had stamina and decent speed, so I think I could definitely have played GAA. This was a great opportunity to learn how the game is played.
You can learn so much on paper, or watching TV or the internet, but being there and seeing how it works was enlightening. I even designed some of my own drills for Erin’s Isle. These drills are about understanding when is the time to keep the ball and when is the time to actually go forward and attack. It was about making certain types of runs in behind, not, as we would say in football, always giving the ball to feet, to players coming short.
It’s about attacking the space, building some sort of patterns, because I believe now in Gaelic football, instead of kicking it all the time, you try to keep possession and you start with the goalkeeper. So, we tried to do some shadow play, where you have the 15 players trying to build a pattern in their mind. But, you can do as much as you want on the training field. It is only when you are playing a match that you realise how things actually are.