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13th Sep 2016

16-year-old Irish coach makes great impression on Graham Henry and Bernard Jackman

One to watch

Patrick McCarry

Joe Walsh has loved rugby from an early age but figured out the best way to make an impact on the game was not on the pitch.

Whatever you were up to at 16, there’s a mighty big chance you weren’t picking the brain of a World Cup-winning coach or doing a three-week stint with a Top 14 rugby side.

That’s just a couple of Walsh’s highlights over the past few months. The St Michael’s College student realised he would not be the next Luke McGrath or Noel Reid and turned to a side of the game that is on the rise – performance analysis.

“I still wanted to be part of the game,” Walsh tells SportsJOE.

“In third year, I entered the management end of rugby with performance analysis, working with various underage rugby teams and school sides.”

In August 2015, Walsh received his first coaching position with Railway Union RFC. This year, he is coaching the Junior Squad in Lansdowne FC, one of Ireland’s most prestigious clubs. He continues:

“Coaching is one of the most rewarding careers that exists. You get to facilitate the improvement of hundreds of players throughout your career, and watch them enjoy every moment of it.

“That’s why I coach, because there is nothing I value more, than having those 40 or 50 lads around me that I get to develop into better athletes, and better people.”

The teenager spent three weeks at Grenoble, shadowing director of rugby Bernard Jackman and his coaching team. He was particularly impressed with how each day, and session, is timed to the minute to give each coach and player the maximum advantage of the resources at hand.

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Walsh raves about Jackman and former Munster scrumhalf Mike Prendergast, Grenoble’s backs coach, and about their generosity of spirit and time. He says:

“Seeing the unbelievable hours that they put in behind the scenes and combining that effortlessly with endless hands-on coaching, really solidified my decision to pursue a career as a professional coach.”

Not long after he returned to Dublin, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen arranged it for Walsh to have a half hour chat with New Zealand rugby legend Graham Henry. “Graham gave me half an hour to ask about his coaching pathway, his advice on coaching as a career, which he highly recommended, and an insight into his life,” he said.

Walsh is learning every day and says he has already developed a thick skin. He knows he won’t be able to progress without making mistakes and getting criticism but sees each speed-bump as a learning opportunity.

He says, “For anyone who has ever thought about coaching, do it, and don’t look back.”

The GAA Hour took their show on the road to Castlebar to preview the All-Ireland final with Colm Parkinson, James Horan and some very special guests. Listen below or subscribe here on iTunes.

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