GAA’s Go Games give valuable training in fun and friendship

Focus is on skill and enjoyment for ages 6-11, says Martin Byrne of Kilmacud Crokes

Kilmacud Crokes run an annual “Mini All Ireland Blitz”, for young players aged between 5 and 12 years old, over a three-week period in the summer. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Kilmacud Crokes run an annual “Mini All Ireland Blitz”, for young players aged between 5 and 12 years old, over a three-week period in the summer. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

For Martin Byrne, who is in charge of football for 8-12 year olds at the Kilmacud Crokes Football club in Dublin, the introduction of the GAA’s Go Games eight years ago for players aged between 6 and 11 helped to change attitudes.

Under the Go Games rules, which is now official policy across the organisation, games for U7s, U9s and U11s were restructured to maximise “the level of fun, friendship, fair play and achievement” for children.

The introduction of Go Games “took away focus from winning at all costs” and provided a “better opportunity for young and juvenile players to play and develop at their own pace”, according to Mr Byrne.

Strong GAA background

Up to 12 years of age, the focus is “purely on skill development”, according to Mr Byrne. However, Kilmacud Crokes has to accommodate for those joining the club with a strong GAA background as well as people only getting to know the sport.

“[The] important thing in these years is to develop skills and basic skills . . . to foster values that we would see as a club, comradeship, a focus on the team, and developing those lifelong friendships that are hugely important in the GAA,” Mr Byrne said.

Kilmacud Crokes run an annual “Mini All Ireland Blitz”, splitting approximately 1,500 young players aged between 5 and 12 years old into teams named after counties, over a three-week period in the summer.

The GAA has to place a huge focus “on keeping the games accessible and fun” from junior level upwards if it is to thrive in the capital. “It’s more than kicking footballs, it’s making friends for life,” Mr Byrne said.