Karl Lacey is new Head of Academy Development for Donegal GAA

Earlier this evening the CLG Dhún na nGall county board executive endorsed a new Academy Development Structure for the county, presented by GDM (Games Development Manager) Aaron Kyles. Aaron stressed its introduction would benefit the development of players and coaches at club and academy squad level. The aim is to nurture emerging talent in the county – directly with academy squads and indirectly by providing support to clubs. This will be achieved by providing a holistic and progressive long-term player development programme to coincide with the GAA’s new Player Pathway Model for sustained results both on and off the field, across all levels of development in the county.  While designed for academy squads a key feature of the player development programme is that it can be integrated by clubs into their coaching frameworks and planning strategies. County coaches will also liaise with clubs to upgrade their coaches, assist player development and to help with other objectives, such as minimising dropout.


As part of the programme Karl Lacey has been appointed as the new “Head of Academy Development” for Donegal GAA. Karl is one of the county’s most decorated players, has an MSc in Sports Performance from University of Limerick and is a lecturer in Sport Coaching and Performance at LYIT. In recent years Karl has been a coach for the Donegal Senior Football team and brings a wealth of practical experience to the role. Karl will lead on the programme design of the Donegal GAA Academy programme in collaboration with the GDM.


Dr Micheál Cahill will fill the role of “Athletic Performance Consultant”. Micheál, originally from Limerick, currently serves as vice president of performance and sports science at Athlete Training and Health (a sport performance company) in Texas. He is responsible for the training philosophy within all the company’s locations in addition to overseeing the day-to-day integration of a multidisciplinary sports medicine and research team focused on applied human performance collaborating with large hospitals and professional sporting organizations.


A key feature of the new coaching structure is external partnerships with third level institutions and experts at the leading edge of coaching philosophies and technologies. CLG Dhún na nGall have partnered with LYIT in recent years. Going forward the new academy structure extends these partnerships to include Athlete Training and Health in Texas, Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and Cardiff Metropolitan University (CMU). Micheál already lectures in AUT and supervises postgraduate sports science research worldwide for CMU. Aaron is a PhD researcher in CMU under the guidance of two renowned leaders in youth athletic development – Dr Jon Oliver and Dr Rhodri Lloyd.


Karl, Micheál and Aaron will work with a new academy work group and the Donegal Games and Coaching Staff in implementing these new structures across the county.  County Chairperson, Mick McGrath, welcomed the addition of Karl to a pivotal role in this improved Donegal youth coaching infra-structure in what would be a big step forward for underage coaching in the county. He acknowledged the considerable work which went into formulating the new Academy Development Structure and is delighted with the outcome.