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19th Jul 2023

“I’m sure there are a lot of young lads listening who will agree” – How O’Donoghue became one of the game’s best shooters

Niall McIntyre

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Having not been much of a shooter in his younger days, Ryan O’Donoghue is now one of the most prolific in Gaelic football.

The Belmullet forward was top scorer in Division One of the National Football League, he was also Mayo’s top scorer in the championship and speaking on The GAA Hour on Monday, he went through his kicking regime.

From a practice perspective, quality over quantity is the key for O’Donoghue.

He says that, given the demands of inter-county football, it’s not physically possible to take on hours and hours of extra shooting practice outside of training. That’s why, before training and during Mayo sessions, he takes on as many shots on goal as possible.

“I wasn’t a big kicker in my underage days,” says the 24-year-old, “I was more of an assister, I wasn’t racking up crazy scores at even minor or under-20 level.

“In terms of individual shooting practice, you don’t really get that much opportunities to practice outside of training – just because of the load – I’ve had problems with my groins in the past due to overuse from kicking and free-taking.

“So before training, I might have ten kicks, then when some of the managers are introducing a drill or going through a drill, I’ll just get six or seven more in and then get someone to explain it to me.

“So you might get 40 shots in a training session including in-game shoots.”

In terms of his technique, O’Donoghue says one of the most helpful tips he has picked up along the way was given to him by his team-mate Cillian O’Connor, who was a great help to him when he took over the free-taking duties during the Ballintubber man’s injury.

“After that game in Clare where Cillian got injured, I went up to James Horan and said ‘I’m putting myself forward, I want to take the frees.”

“To be fair, Cillian helped me big-time, there were voice notes back and over. Did a few kicking sessions.

“How to deal with a miss, how to deal with a crowd. I wouldn’t be the free-taker I am today if it wasn’t for Cillian. He passed on his knowledge straight onto me because that’s just the type of team-mate he is.”

“For me, it’s all just technique,” adds O’Donoghue.

“I’m sure there are a lot of young lads listening who will agree, but I used to rush my shots.

“Watch the best kickers in the game, you watch Cillian O’Connor, he slows down for that last second, that last step, and it’s as if there’s no-one around him.

“Sometimes you will get blocked down but more often than not, you’ll create that separation and then kick it over the bar.”

“Bar Conor McManus – he did it at full speed, that took some quality, if you keep doing that, they could hit the corner flag. So for me, it was about slowing down on that last step.”

O’Donoghue was a sponge for any advice he could be given, and he says that, in terms of practice, Andy Moran’s tip on taking less shots but upping the quality has stuck with him.

“But quality over quantity all the time, there’s no point going down with a bag of balls.

“I wouldn’t go down and kick forty shots, I’d go down and kick 15, and I’d write them down, my efficiency should be over 85%/90% all the time, rather than going down with no number. Andy Moran gave me that tip a few years ago.”

“So go down with a number, take it, mark it down and over ten sessions then, you’ll see what percentage of a shooter you are.”

As regards to free-taking in particular, O’Donoghue says it’s all about routine. Interestingly, he says that holding the ball out and away from his body is something that has worked well for him. This is also a technique, O’Donoghue says, which is used by David Clifford.

“After that, it’s whatever works for you, it’s ball-placement – Clifford has the ball out far, other players have it inside.

“I find holding the ball out, and kicking the middle of the ball, you’re able to get more trajectory.”

Watch the full show with Ryan O’Donoghue below.

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