Wexford FC have seen considerable change since last season. Coupled with the new name was the departure of Shane Keegan to Galway United. His replacement Damian Locke is putting his own stamp on the club and has assembled an ambitious backroom team. Part of which is 30-year-old goalkeeping coach, Eamonn Doyle.
Here he speaks to Brian Strahan on his hopes for this season and his own philosophy on goalkeeping coaching.
Brian Strahan: How did you get involved with Wexford FC as their new Goalkeeping coach?
Eamonn Doyle: With the new management coming in this year they were looking for some new coaches to add to the team. The manager Damian received a recommendation about me and had been told that I had recently moved back to Wexford and was looking to get back into coaching after leaving st Joseph’s Boys in Dublin last year.
BS: It’s quite a jump from Schoolboys football to the League of Ireland First Divison?
ED: Yes it is a big jump, but one I am very excited about. I have been thinking about moving into the senior game for a bit of time now as I have been coaching schoolboys football for about 10 years. I wasn’t expecting this opportunity to present itself so soon but when it did it was one I couldn’t turn down. I feel I have the experience and knowledge now to succeed in the senior game just as I did in schoolboy level.
BS: Your brother Will is a coach alongside Damian Locke. Has that made your integration into the set up smoother?
ED: Yes, it has made things easier as it is always nice knowing someone involved when you join a new team and myself and will have worked together before too. I also knew a couple of the players from coaching schoolboy teams over the years who have now progressed to senior football so that helped as well.
BS: Is the feeling amongst the management team that promotion is realistic with Waterford’s strength and that only one side can go up?
ED: From the outset our aim will be to perform as best we can and with good results we feel that come the end of the season we can be pushing for promotion. Obviously with the investment Waterford have had and the signings they have made they will be favourites along with Longford who have a very strong team but with the squad we have available we feel that we can give promotion a good go hopefully.
BS: Its still a big ask though?
ED: We know it will be a very big ask, but we are happy with the players we have and we feel that we are good enough to beat anyone on our day. So there is no reason why we would not aim for promotion.
BS: Where does that belief come from? From the management team is that something that’s given a lot of consideration?
ED: It comes from knowing that we have a very talented and committed group including both players and management. It has been mentioned during preseason that the aim is to be in or around the promotion chase come the business end of the season. But our initial aim is to start well and get some points on the board and build some momentum.
BS: Who would be the leaders in this team that players will be looking to?
ED: Well obviously our goalkeeper and captain Graham Doyle would be one of the main leader and characters in the dressing room. He is very vocal both on the pitch and in the dressing room and is a great leader for the club. Hopefully his experience can rub off on some of the younger players also. Then players like Craig McCabe, Adam Hanlon and Craig Wall who have experience in the league, will prove very important throughout the season.
BS: As goalkeeping coach do you find you are learning from Graham as well as him from you?
ED: Yes I would definitely say I am learning from Graham and the same goes for Corey [Chambers]. As it is my first real coaching role working with senior players I still have a lot to learn as it is different than working with schoolboy goalkeepers. I learn from them just the same as they learn from me. As a player or a coach you never stop learning.
BS: The role of a goalkeeping coach, from the outside, looks limited. Teams don’t have central midfielder coaches or full back coaches. Why does goalkeeping warrant a specific coach?
ED: It is a specialised area so therefore requires a specialised coach. The skill set of a goalkeeper is completely different to outfield players. With outfield players the technical side of the game is similar whether you play right-back, centre-midfield or up front but is completely different to the technical side of goalkeeping. I think that is why a lot of goalkeepers at schoolboy level struggle and fail to progress as they turn up to training and end up playing outfield or standing in goal having shots taken at them and this does not help their development.
Goalkeeping is an art and it is a very complex role. Goalkeepers need to be able to use their feet, hands, read and understand the game as well as control the players around them so taking all of that into consideration they definitely need a specialized coach.
BS: At schoolboy level then is there the realization that specific coaching is a must?
ED: At an elite level yes there is but other than that no. If you went around to schoolboy clubs around the country I would say there are very few who have specific goalkeeping coaches. It is not that you need a goalkeeper coach for every team in the club, but each club should have a goalkeeper coach who takes all the goalkeepers at the same time for specialized training. It is no different to outfield players been asked to do goalkeeper training every week of the season and then being asked to go and play outfield at the weekend.
In a way goalkeepers are the forgotten players and it is the same for goalkeeper coaches. There is a lot more emphasis put on outfield coaching and more support given by the governing body for outfield coaches.