We caught up with Mens Head Coach Andrei Molnar to discuss the latest developments in the Narbonne Twinning Project, and find out his plans for the coming year.
So Andrei, 3 of the Ireland u20 Junior Squad are heading to Narbonne for a weeks training. How did this project come about?
The Twining project “Jumilage” between the Irish Squads and Narbonne Volley was initially approached by Lauren the last Squads coach. Jumilage projects are a particularity to Francophone countries, I personally am used to the term because Romania is a Francophone country as well. After I took over the Irish Squads, I found the project in a dormant state and recognized its potential for Irish volleyball players and started working with our French partners in making it a functional one.
What are the main aims of the twinning project?
The short term plan is to expose the Irish Volleyball players and their families to the high-level volleyball and its perks. On the medium and long term, it is an absolutely unique opportunity in having a direct path to the professional volleyball life. For us as coaches and managers I personally think it is a great opportunity to work with a club of world level from which we can learn a lot as well from a professional point of view.
The u14s were in Narbonne at Easter, how was that experience for the team?
Despite my past contact with the professional clubs I have to admit I was shocked in how we were welcomed by the local authorities of the AUDE Department, Narbonne Volley and local families. It was an unbelievable volleyball experience and it was impressive how much our lads changed in just one week.
How accommodating have the French families been hosting our Irish players?
The French families accepted us like we were part of their family, that is the only way I can describe everything. It was a perfect example that the community is the most important aspect all-around a sports programme.
Is this expected to be a long term project? Yes, this kind of partnerships takes time to solidify. It is my intention to work in an exchange of player programmes, but in a coaching development as well. Tristan Martin was one of the best setters in France and he is a very respectable coach tutor as well, I guess all of us have to take some French classes from now.
Have there been any benefits for the coaching team as well as the players?
Seeing how coaches like Tristan Martin and Philip Schneider work kinda gave us new perspectives in the development objectives. For example, it is important to have results as a team, but what life opportunities are we giving to our young players and such. Our young players started setting fastballs and playing pipe from the third training only, such is the power of example which they had from the Narbonne juniors.
So tell us about the lads that have been selected, who are they and where are they from?
Ciagan Davoren is the youngest of them playing as a libero and he is from St Brigid's College, Loughrea, Co. Galway. Cian Humphreys is one of our left wings and he is from St Flannan’s College, Ennis, Co Clare . Cathal Dwyer is one of our middle blockers and he is from St Flannan’s College, Ennis, Co Clare. The 3 of them took part in the huge success that the Irish National Team had in Scotland as well.
How were these lads selected?
In the professional volleyball all clubs have a player pattern that they usually use, all players know this. You might have no chance in this team, but you are wanted by an even better one, this is a cold reality that the Irish players have to learn as well. During our period with the U14, I had an opportunity to have extended talks with Tristan and Philip in relation to what kind of players they are searching, age, height, position etc
Do you have any more exciting plans in progress?
At this moment I am trying together with the coaching staff to put together an U16 Squad to represent Ireland in the CEV. I am extremely excited about this because we have managed to attract some very gifted children to the programme. By next Summer I personally hope to have a competitive Squad at this age group as well. I haven’t forgotten about the seniors where players like Aidan McDonell (Squads captain) and Eoghan Monahan have provided an excellent example of character to the younger lads. So by 2021 we should have senior Squad ready to compete at international level.
The SCA competition for u20 Men is next year, how are preparations coming along for that?
The preparations are going very well, the Scotland tournament gave the lads a very well deserved breath of air in this very long training process. But we are going to keep the Squads motto all the way to the end “Play the point, not the game”, which has made us keep focus so far.
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