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St Ronan’s College becomes first school to appoint specialist GAA Participation Officer

Armagh GAA announces significant new coaching initiative with Lurgan post-primary school

Front row from left to right: St Ronan’s College students, Tom Lavery, Aoibhin Donohue, Oisin Moore and Evie McCaffrey. Back row from left to right: David Wilson (Head of Maths Department and Football Coach, St Ronan’s College), Sean McAlinden (Vice Chair, Armagh GAA), Kevin Curran (GAA Participation Officer), Kieran McGeeney (Armagh GAA Football Manager), Fiona Kane (Principal, St Ronan’s College) and Jimmy Smyth (President, Armagh GAA).

St Ronan’s College, Lurgan has become the first post-primary school in Armagh to appoint a specialist GAA Participation Officer as part of a new coaching initiative with Armagh GAA.

The purpose of the post, which has been taken up this week by Kevin Curran, is to lead the planning and implementation of a sports development programme for the successful promotion of Gaelic games within St Ronan’s College in close partnership with Armagh GAA.

Kevin has almost six years of experience as a coach with Ulster GAA.

The move is part of a pilot project between the county and the school that could eventually be rolled out to other post-primary schools in Armagh.

Mrs Fiona Kane, Principal said: “The relationship between St Ronan’s College and Armagh GAA has become a true partnership. With our vision to be a sector leading College, we are the first school in Northern Ireland to launch the role of GAA Participation Officer at post-primary level.

“Without question the vision, hard work, passion and commitment of the staff and governors of the College are recognised by Armagh GAA in this initiative.

“In this groundbreaking pilot project, it will be a complete game changer to the way the College delivers coaching and works with our local clubs and primary schools to deliver a progressive GAA Curriculum to promote extended participation. Creating a student athlete model, will also enable us to showcase the talent and passion of our young people at the highest and elite levels.

“The College currently has close to 1,800 pupils, and since the appointment of Kevin, we have received calls from many other schools who are keen to learn more about the role and how they might adopt a similar model.”

Pictured from left to right are David Wilson (Head of Maths Department and Football Coach, St Ronan’s College), Sean McAlinden (Vice Chair, Armagh GAA), Kevin Curran (GAA Participation Officer), Kieran McGeeney (Armagh GAA Football Manager), Fiona Kane (Principal, St Ronan’s College) and Jimmy Smyth (President, Armagh GAA).

Former Armagh GAA player, current MacRory Coach and Head of Maths, David Wilson, added: “We are delighted to welcome Kevin to the extracurricular team and are really excited by this partnership with Armagh GAA. We have a very strong team of GAA coaches in St Ronan’s College and look forward to working alongside Kevin who will support and help to enhance the work they do.

“Kevin’s love for the GAA, his vast coaching experience and connection to the local area leave me in no doubt that he will succeed in this role. With recent local success it is clear that GAA in Lurgan is on an upward curve.

“In St Ronan’s College it is our desire to play our part in the GAA development of all local boys and girls and provide opportunities to test themselves at the highest level against the very best that Ulster schools have to offer.”

From its opening in 2015, St Ronan’s College in Lurgan has striven for excellence in all areas of school life, including sport of all varieties.

As proud winners of the Danske Bank MacRory Cup and then the Hogan Cup in 2018, the College has invested heavily in terms of time and resources in its commitment to providing GAA sporting opportunities at the highest level to the young people of St Ronan’s College, the latest title of Ulster Champions going to the U16 Ladies Team only a few weeks ago.

St Ronan’s College, GAA Participation Officer, Kevin Curran, said: “I am both thrilled and absolutely honoured to have taken up the position of GAA Participation Officer with Armagh GAA, based in St Ronan’s College Lurgan.

“Working closely with School Principal Fiona Kane, MacRory Cup Manager Mr David Wilson and all of the excellent GAA coaches within St Ronan’s College, my focus will be to lead and drive forward the planning and implementation of a wide-ranging GAA Development Programme within St Ronan’s whilst working in close partnership with Armagh GAA. On a personal note, it feels like I have entered Dr Who’s Tardis and travelled back in time.

“Without revealing my age….. I was a pupil in the old St Paul’s Junior High School in the early 1980’s and I then transferred to what was then St Michael’s Senior High School. So returning to work based in the Francis Street site of St Ronan’s College has brought many happy memories flooding back.

“Gaelic Games promotion have been a key cornerstone of the St Paul’s, St Mary’s, St Michael’s schools and now St Ronan’s College. From my short time in the role, it is very evident to me that St Ronan’s has a fantastic group of dedicated Teachers/Coaches who go above and beyond the call of duty in delivering GAA training and matches for our pupils.

“Finally, winning is very nice but you can’t win every game and every GAA competition you enter. What is important to me is that through the provision of our native and unique Gaelic Games, we can give our pupils a proud sense of identity, connection, togetherness and belonging whilst accentuating the positives of GAA participation in relation to stimulating good physical and mental health in each GAA participant in St Ronan’s. A journey I am certainly relishing.”

Pictured with Jimmy Smyth, President, Armagh GAA (kneeling, left) and Kevin Curran, GAA Participation Officer, are St Ronan’s College students, from left to right, Evie McCaffrey, Tom Lavery, Oisin Moore and Aoibhin Donohue.

Armagh GAA Chairman, Paul McArdle, said: “We are delighted to announce this exciting new coaching initiative with St. Ronan’s College and we welcome Kevin Curran to the role as Games Development Officer.

“We are really looking forward to working in partnership on this pilot project that will help develop player pathways and foster talent to play our games at the highest level.

“This is a significant investment that demonstrates our commitment to deliver quality coaching while supporting our local schools and clubs to lay foundations for a vibrant future. I’m excited about the opportunities this project presents and the potential we can create by working together.”

Mrs Fiona Kane, Principal concluded: “We are approximately 12 months away from the completion of our new school build and extensive sporting facilities that will have full community use in the evenings, weekends and during holiday periods.

“Our College has been blessed since its opening with the full support of many of our local GAA and other clubs to enable our PE Department, coaches and pupils to have access to sporting facilities we currently do not have.

“We won two major tournaments in 2018 with no facilities of our own. Without the support of our community, that simply could not have happened. So as we stand on the brink of having our own amazing, state of the art sporting and educational facilities in our grasp and with the support of Armagh GAA and our new GAA Participation Officer Kevin now in post, the sky really is the limit for us and we look forward to exciting times ahead.”

The main duties of the new role include:

1. To ensure pupils within the school are provided with opportunities to participate in Gaelic games for school teams in meaningful competitive competitions and to ensure these teams are coached to the highest of standards on a weekly basis throughout the school year.

2. To lead coaching and player skill development initiatives appropriate to the age and ability of the various playing groups within the school.

3. In conjunction with Armagh County Board plan, implement and review individual player development including those in the Orchard Academy through activities such as strength and conditioning and nutritional programmes.

4. To manage players health and well-being, in particular the commitments of elite dual players.

5. To develop an interschool competition to provide recreational games to all pupils using the ‘Super 9s’ model.

6. To develop and manage a strong link with our feeder primary schools and feeder clubs, to create a hub of Gaelic games development activity in the area.

7. To manage all school GAA coaches and promote their individual coach development programmes as appropriate.

8. In conjunction with Armagh County Board lead courses and workshops to assist with the development of Coaches within the school.

9. To create a meaningful outreach programme for the local feeder primary schools and clubs to assist with future pupil player development.

10. To incorporate GAA development camps (Easter and Summer) into the school calendar of events working alongside the Armagh County Board to support player development on and off the pitch. Interact with Armagh GAA academy programmes and Croke Park initiatives during these periods.

11. To monitor and evaluate the project and in particular, prepare and present reports, publicity material and presentations on the project as required.

12. To attend meetings, coaching seminars, training sessions and matches as required.

13. To interact with key partners such as the GAA, Armagh County Board and local feeder clubs and primary schools to ensure the successful achievement of the project.

14. To keep abreast of current and emerging trends and development within sports development in general and Gaelic games specifically.

15. To undertake training and development relevant to the post.

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