AS Gaelic Football continues to evolve the goalkeeping role is being placed under increased scrutiny.
Dundalk custodian Gary Rogers might have carved out his reputation in the SSE Airtricity League of Ireland, but the Cavan goalkeeping coach is ideally placed to offer a valuable insight into what the position currently entails. “Gaelic Football goalkeeping has changed dramatically,” Rogers admits.
“Back in the day the only requirement was to have a good kick-out. Now it is so much more and to be honest I envisage the day coming very soon when most inter-county goalkeepers will be outfield players. Not alone that they will have to have the same qualities as any good outfield player.
“In soccer the goalkeeper is the only player that can handle the ball, but it is different in Gaelic Football. It is so important to have somebody who is capable of making breaks, creating overlaps for defenders.
“So much of modern Gaelic Football is about retaining possession. It would help teams greatly if they have a ‘keeper, who can provide another option in different situations. It would cause problems for teams if the ‘keeper is capable of using the ball smartly.”
Rogers has a strong pedigree in both sports having operated at inter-county level for Meath, while also enjoying a hugely productive career in domestic soccer. So three years ago when Cavan boss Terry Hyland called Rogers was thrilled to embark on a new chapter in his own personal sporting journey. “Around three years ago Terry Hyland first rang me about getting involved. I was very interested because coaching was always something I had an interest in.
“At the time I was just about to join Sligo so when I initially started with Cavan it was in the off season and I really enjoyed it. Then when I started with Sligo I was still able to get up to Cavan once a week and it is something that I’m delighted to be still doing.
“I’ve continued doing it and it has been rewarding. Overall for Cavan the first year was the most successful with the team reaching the All Ireland quarter-finals.
“That showed what Cavan can achieve; I really enjoyed being part of that. In my time there Cavan have used three different ‘keepers in the Championship so I’m proud to have played a part in helping out those guys.”
Hyland’s diligence has earned Cavan significant respect. Winning four Ulster under 21 titles on the spin between 2011 and 2014 means Cavan are now especially keen to make an impact at senior level. “Terry runs a very good show,” Rogers acknowledges. “His preparation and attention to detail is very impressive. The emphasis he puts on analysis of both his own team’s performance and that of the opposition is interesting. His ultimate desire is to improve Cavan football and I think that he is certainly doing that.
“Traditionally Cavan is a football stronghold and I’ve noticed that when the team gets a few good results there is serious interest in how they are doing.
“Having been so successful at under 21 level the challenge is now to transfer that to the senior grade. The ultimate goal is to become one of the major powers again. Things like that don’t happen overnight, but I think Cavan people have lots of reason to be optimistic.
“In terms of the goalkeeping training Terry lets me do it. Obviously because of my commitments with Dundalk, which mean an awful lot to me I cannot make every Cavan session. It usually works out that I make one a week and Terry leaves it to me. We would discuss things, but he is the manager. He picks the team; I just want to ensure that his goalkeepers are prepared in the best way possible for him.”
Cavan, though, will be fully aware of the threat a pumped up London side will carry at Ruislip on Saturday. Hyland’s charges know a tricky test awaits according to Rogers. “I definitely think that Cavan can do well in the qualifiers. At this stage it is all about generating momentum really. The qualifiers are all about playing games and acquiring experience for young teams. I don’t see any reason why Cavan cannot do well this summer.
“Cavan won’t take London lightly. It is only two years since London contested a Connacht final. I know Cavan beat them in the qualifiers then at Croke Park, but London are capable of springing a surprise. If Cavan go about their business properly they should be able to come out on the right side of the result, but they will treat London with the respect they deserve.”