Tipperary GAA has announced plans to overhaul its athletic development structures, aiming to create a formalised pathway for players from academy to senior level. Through a new partnership with Setanta College, the county is implementing an integrated approach that will cover both hurling and football across all grades.

Central to the partnership will be the design and delivery of long-term development programmes by coaches from Setanta, who will also oversee the strength & conditioning for Tipperary’s senior hurling and football teams. Tipperary GAA will also have access to the facilities, equipment and technology in Setanta’s elite-performance facility located adjacent to Semple Stadium in Thurles.

The announcement signifies a new approach for Tipperary GAA, aiming to create a joined-up structure that will prepare players for the transition from underage to senior level. Previously, athletic development programmes were delivered to teams separately by their relevant coaching staff.

Chairman of Tipperary GAA, Joe Kennedy, said “I am delighted with our new partnership with Setanta College. This is a major development in the delivery of athletic training programs for all Tipperary players in both codes. Setanta College are leaders in this field and as they are headquartered in Thurles it makes perfect sense to use this top-class facility. Setanta College provide highly trained coaches and the very best equipment to measure and monitor athletic performance. The benefit of this partnership will be seen over the next few years and will give our teams every chance to be successful in the future.” 

In recent years, Tipperary’s senior teams have used the Setanta facility as a base for their strength & conditioning training while the college also provided the academy teams with remote support during the COVID-19 lockdown. The new structure will see the pair form a closer working relationship.

The coaching team and programme will be led by Des Ryan, previously Head of Sports Science and Medicine at the Arsenal FC Academy and now Director of Coaching and Performance at Setanta College. A member of the Gaelic Games Sports Science Working Group, he led the rollout of the GAA’s ‘Be Ready to Play’ initiative earlier this year. Also supporting the design and execution of the programme is Dr Liam Hennessy, former Bayern Munich and Irish Rugby Fitness Head who operated in the past as S&C Coach to Tipperary GAA for multiple All-Ireland successes. Both have previously led youth development structures across Rugby, Soccer, and GAA and will be overseeing a team of 12 experienced S&C coaches who will lead on the implementation.

Speaking about the partnership, Des Ryan said, “Tipperary GAA has enjoyed great success in recent years across both codes, and our aim will be to help build on the foundations already in place as the county embarks on a new approach to athletic development.  

The ambition in Tipperary is to continue challenging for the highest honours in the years to come and we look forward to supporting the teams in their preparations. Along with senior-level, our team of coaches will work at academy level to support the development of youth players, helping Tipperary GAA to harness the talent and potential within the county.” 

The Setanta connection to Tipperary GAA goes beyond this new partnership as senior hurling manager Colm Bonnar and coach Tommy Dunne are both graduates of Setanta College. Headquartered in Thurles, the sports college specialises in providing higher education across the field of human performance, specifically in strength & conditioning, sports science, sports psychology, and exercise nutrition.

Notable graduates and students of the college include former Head of Strength and Conditioning with the Limerick Senior Hurling Team Mikey Kiely, former Tipperary Hurler Brendan Maher and Ged McNamara, Head of Athletic Performance with Munster Rugby.