John Connolly meets Leitrim's Ryan O'Rourke at the launch of the GAA Super Games Centre in association with Sky Sports
Inspiring the next generation of football stars is very definitely on the agenda for Leitrim GAA as they combined with Sky Sports last Friday to roll out the launch of the GAA Super Games Centre.
With Leitrim star Ryan O’Rourke adding a touch of glamour and excitement for a group of young footballers aged between 12 and 14, the presence of Sky cameras in the Leitrim GAA Centre of Excellence was just as exciting for the young and not so young in Annaduff.
The GAA Super Games Centres were established to reduce youth drop-out which is the biggest worldwide problem in this sector and Sky Sports will provide support to each GAA Super Games Centre in the form of kits and equipment.
Last Friday night, it was the turn of Leitrim to receive the Sky Sports treatment with a group of young players who were participating in the Friday night lights programme getting the chance to have a Q&A session with Ryan O’Rourke.
O’Rourke gave some of the best young footballers an insight on what it takes to reach the highest level as he stressed that improvements didn’t just come from the work at organised club or school training session but from the hours put in by each player on their own.
Posing the youngsters a question, Ryan asked how many of them actually owned their own proper gaelic football and talked of how you could improve your kicking skills simply by playing the ball off a wall at home each day.
It was a theme Ryan expanded on when he chatted with the Observer and he and his Leitrim team-mates are definitely conscious of their role in inspiring future generations of Leitrim GAA stars.
“The GAA Super Games Centre in association with Sky Sports is looking at a more relaxed sort of environment, getting kids to engage with it and enjoy it. The age group they are targeting is from around 12 to 17 and there is usually a big drop in that age group so they are trying to target them, try to bring them on and keep them at it.
“We wouldn’t actually see this sort of initiative around here so it is great that Sky are coming down here to Leitrim and it is all over the country so hopefully, it is making a difference to kids in Leitrim and all around the country.
“It is definitely welcome, these kind of opportunities come around when you start getting results and things starting turning the way of the county.
Research conducted by the GAA and University of Sterling prove the veracity of the SGC approach and the importance of giving this age cohort responsibility for the organisation of their own affairs.
Regional visits with Sky Sports mentors will also be arranged throughout the year, with the aim to attract 2,000 new participants annually to the GAA Super Games Centres initiative with a primary objective to cater for 10,000 GAA Super Games Centre participants over a five-year period.
Having a successful Leitrim team and their own heroes will no doubt help Leitrim’s cause and Ryan admits that he is seeing the difference on the ground, particularly in St. Mary’s National School in Bornacoola where he is working at the moment.
“Everyone is talking about Leitrim and Croke Park. I can even see it in the school where I’m working, everyone is wearing a Leitrim jersey and they are all bringing footballs to school so it has already made a big difference.
“Most of the lads are around Dublin, I’m one of the few lads in Leitrim so I’m definitely getting to see it, it is clear to see in all the kids and even the adults, it has given everyone a big lift. We wouldn’t be thinking of the pressure side of things because we wouldn’t even get bogged down on that, they just want to see Leitrim winning and that is a good feeling to have.”