CONCERNED Ballina RFC Head Coach JP Walsh
Ballina RFC coach JP Walsh is treating the shutdown as an opportunity
“IT’S like one step forward and two steps back,”
That’s how Ballina RFC coach JP Walsh summed up the current mood in rugby circles after all domestic matches was suspended by the IRFU last week in the wake of the surge in Covid-19 cases.
Ballina had two games under their belt in their All-Ireland League campaign before last week’s announcement, and while it came as a disappointment for the Westport native, he acknowledges that it was in everyone’s best interests.
“We were due to have a week off this week anyway as the lads have been going since August, so this might be a good opportunity for them to get the bodies right and to work a bit on their strength and conditioning programmes,” Walsh told The Mayo News.
“But we just have to be optimistic at this point because it is going to come back, and when it does the guys will be raring to go.
“Everything we’ve done so far in terms of the league has been a bonus and, obviously, it’s very disappointing for an entire country the way things are going with the numbers, but you have to be really smart about it.
“We’re just going to have to wait and see. I know it feels like one step forward and two steps back, but everyone at this stage is looking at this from a public health point of view.”
Walsh, a former Coach Development Officer with Connacht Rugby, admitted he was very encouraged with the approach clubs took towards the guidelines and regulations over the past couple of months.
Last July he was appointed Director of Rugby and Head Coach of the North Mayo outfit in the most challenging of times, working with a young homegrown team in Division 2B of the AlL. So far, he’s been really impressed.
“It was really exciting to get the league started,” explained the former Westport Bulls star. “The Ballina team are very young and having 20 guys who all came through the club’s underage system which is unique and very rare.
“Over the two weekends we played it was really exciting. I think we only had one person over the age of 23, so it’s a very exciting time for them as a club. They’ve put in huge work at underage to bring these guys to senior and they’re turning into a really strong team.
“So things are really looking good for rugby in Ballina and North Mayo.”
The challenge now for Walsh is to try and keep his players motivated in times of such uncertainty with no fixed dates. However, he says he’s looking at it as a time of opportunity.
“Thankfully we can still train in our pods and with no contact,” he said. “So that means you can bring in stuff like small-sided touch games, which we believe are of massive benefit to player development, but might be neglected when you’re playing games.
“So this creates an opportunity to work on those skills. The big thing for me is that this is an opportunity. We’re just going to have to take it day by day to see what we’ll be able to do because, at the end of the day, we have to look after people’s safety.