Scratch beneath the surface and evidence of a new Irish brigade at QPR is available. A string of Republic of Ireland underage internationals are progressing smoothly. The fact that a Wexford native, Ciaran Deely, is occupying a central part in their development adds to the narrative.
Deely, a former captain of the Model county Gaelic Footballers, is forging a successful career. Back home Deely combined coaching with playing. Now the emphasis is very much on preparing teams diligently.
So when Paul Coggins, such a renowned and respected character on the London GAA circuit, rang Deely was happy to answer the call. Deely is Coggins' willing accomplice as selector and sidekick.
Time management is key for Deely, who is relishing his role at QPR. “When I was playing for Wexford I was working as a Gaelic Games Promotion Officer with Dublin,” Deely told The Irish Post. “When I finished up playing with Wexford I decided to go to London to do a masters in strength & conditioning. During the masters I started an internship with the QPR Academy focusing on GPS analysis and a six month role came up.
“I’ve been here since and I am really enjoying it. The environment I’m working in is great and it is very interesting."
Republic of Ireland underage internationals such as Recce Grego Cox, Ryan Manning, and Jake Mulraney carry promise, while Frankie Sutherland, Nathan Corkery, Olimede Shodipo, Michael Harriman, and Ben Pattie are also rated by Rangers.
“From an Irish perspective it is nice to deal with Ryan Manning and Recce Grego Cox, who play for the under 21s. Recce has been in the first team squad a number of times.
“Definitely there is a lot of hope for Ryan. People think that he can make a breakthrough into the first team squad at QPR next season and he has been working well since he came over.
So what does the job at QPR entail? “I work as a sports scientist with the QPR Academy where I work with the teams from under 21 level down to foundation which is under 8s.
“I do daily testing on the players, GPS analysis, training analysis which helps the coaches greatly. When the lads come in for training in the morning they are assessed and they fill out a questionnaire about their general wellness.
“You compile a report each morning on the players which is talked about when the coaches have a meeting in the morning. Everything is looked at seeing how fit they are. Some of the training might need to be modified for different individuals.
“We would then maybe to a prehab and strength session too before they work on the pitch with the coaches. I’d monitor what happens in the sessions then checking heart rates and seeing what distances are covered and at what speed. It is very comprehensive and it identifies anybody who might even have worked too hard.
“People think it is done to pick out guys that aren’t putting it in, but it has the opposite impact really. Most of the time guys are doing an excessive load, which means then that their training might be modified then for the next day.
“It is helpful that the players are really interested. They are fantastic to work with. They usually want to know who ran the most and who ran the fastest, and I can go through things on an excel graph.”
QPR’s coaching staff buy into the modern methods and Deely greatly enjoys learning from several former professional footballers. “The coaches are really interested in what we find,” Deely admits. “They are very open and they are really open to sports science concepts. That makes for a great working relationship between the staff.
“Chris Ramsey and Les Ferdinand have promoted integration between the sports science staff and coaches. That has been brilliant. It is great then to learn from the likes of Paul Furlong and Steve Gallen. They are so supportive to us and everybody works well together. You can get ideas from them which can be brought into Gaelic Football definitely.
“So talking to old professionals like Chris Ramsey, Les Ferdinand, Paul Furlong, and Paul Hall, who played for Jamaica in a World Cup increases your knowledge greatly. Paul Hall played in the 1998 World Cup so he can give a real insight into what it takes to succeed. To learn about different games and concepts is important.”
Deely likes that ideas are being adapted to suit Gaelic Football. During the Allianz Football League there were times in which London’s well organised defensive set up frustrated opponents. “I think that it is only in the past eight years or so that Gaelic Football has become really tactical,” Deely reckons. “Concepts have come into Gaelic Football from soccer and basketball so watching teams like Dublin, Kerry, and Donegal set up tactically is fascinating.
“Things like high press, and low press are spoken about everyday at QPR training, but now they are being adapted for Gaelic Football. Zonal marking is a new enough concept in Gaelic Football, but you always see teams trying stuff like that out now.”
Buzz phrases in contemporary GAA debates include ‘burnout’ and ‘recovery’, but Deely outlines how important planning is. “I know from experience that certain club and inter-county teams in Ireland train more than those in the Premier League which is madness. It doesn’t make sense regarding recovery.
“That is why we’ve focused on training in really short and sharp bursts. It can be tricky, but for me the toughest thing is getting stuff done on a day to day basis.
“With QPR we meet in the morning for half an hour. There could be 12 members of staff speaking about the players and their respective individual needs. The time and resources are there to do that properly. With London, though, when 25 or 30 players are out on the pitch you forget the trouble and issues. Once you’re out on the pitch you’re in the zone training.”
That, in many ways, captures the true and raw beauty of sport. With London, though, there is differing factors which must be considered. “Being involved is a challenge. There are always things that need sorting out that mightn’t happen elsewhere. It can be tricky with pitch availability, floodlights, lack of challenge games, and especially with players coming and going. That is just the nature of it here, though.
“In Wexford everything was relatively done and it was easier for guys to go training because everywhere is closer than it is here.
“It is always a massive challenge for London. At the start of the season we wanted to do well in the league. Any time London do well in it they seem to take confidence from it and subsequently look forward to the championship. Of course it would have been great to put ourselves in a position to push for promotion, but that is a huge challenge.
“From a personal point of view it has been really interesting moving from player to being part of the management. There was a time when as a player you’d only need to look after yourself. All you needed to do was to perform. Especially with London scheduling things is hard because of the kit, financial issues, getting proper pitches, and even sharing facilities. Not many counties have to adapt to the circumstances London face.”
Due to how vast London is Deely acknowledges how London’s players must cope with a plethora of issues. Keeping a balance is key. “Guys are in London for their careers, that always has to come first. I’ve worked really well with Paul and we know we don’t need to flog the lads. They sacrifice a lot to play for London and some of them need down time for their personal lives with families, wives, and girlfriends too. It is important that the balance is right in guys lives.”
As the May 24 Connacht Senior Football Championship Ruislip date with Roscommon edges closer Deely hopes that London can summon a feisty display. “The league was some good, some bad,” is Deely’s verdict about the spring. “The Longford game was a setback and it caught us by surprise a bit, but overall we took some positives from the competition.
“We kept it very tight against Offaly, but probably we lacked a bit of firepower to win it. That was a big disappointment because we had them in real trouble for a while. The one that hurt the most for me, though, was losing in Carlow in the next game.
“We let in a few soft goals in that one. We had a few chances to win it, but we didn’t. After that loss the league was always going to present us with a tough challenge. The good thing was that we finished strongly. Our big players started to show well towards the end of the league which obviously had an effect on the team.
“Traditionally London improve as the season goes on. The starts are usually difficult, but everybody involved is well aware of the challenges involved. Roscommon will be a Division One team in the league next year so it will be a huge task. It is one we won’t shirk. You never know what will happen.”
Growing up positive influences were available at every turn. Mick Wallace's sterling work with Wexford Youths inspired a generation. Take a flick through the Wicklow People and the cast list for a 2000 under 16 trip to Turin features Kevin Doyle. Deely was there alongside Lloyd Colfer (current London Community Development Administrator) and Doyle, capped 61 times by the Republic of Ireland. “Growing up I played soccer with Wexford Youths under Mick Wallace. I can remember him taking us to a tournament in Turin which was a great experience. Kevin Doyle was in my class and he was brilliant on those Youths teams, but for me at the age of 18 Gaelic Football took over. I always followed football and my family supports QPR so it is a nice co-incidence that I work there now.”
It was at Good Counsel in New Ross, though, where Deely became truly fascinated with all matters sport. “I started studying Sports Science in UL in 2001, but really the person that had the biggest influence on me in sport is Aidan O’Brien. He was a teacher in Good Counsel New Ross and we got a really good sporting education there.
“Leaving there I could certainly say I learned from Aidan O’Brien, Kevin Keogh, and Kevin Bates. That set us all up really. Aidan O’Brien managed my club, Horeswood to a county title and we went on to win four which was an achievement for us. He had a massive impact on me, he was a really good guy. His focus was on the skills and bringing a standard to everything you did training wise. Aidan was a big mentor for me.
“I learned under Paul Bealin and Jason Ryan too, but I always felt it was a pity that Aidan was over Wexford when great players like Mattie Forde were coming to the end of their inter-county careers. Nobody could ever downplay the role Mattie Forde played for football in Wexford. Matches would be tight late on and then he would swing over three inspirational points in a row. In my career I was lucky to play with and work under some great people.
“When I came over I won a county title with Kingdom Kerry Gaels under Noel Dunning. It wasn’t difficult for me to leave Wexford because I wanted a new challenge. I always go into a challenge 100 per cent. That is what I did with the course and the same again with QPR. When that is over I will look for another challenge.” Deely’s lifelong coaching season will keep going. That is for sure.