Ambitious Bray are hopeful Nasir Munir can help raise the bar further in north Wicklow following his appointment as men’s first team coach and the club’s coaching director.
The FIH Level 4 high performance coach reprises the role he has undertaken at Genesis in recent times having previously given impetus to Glenanne and Portrane’s development.
“We want to lift the profile of the club,” Bray’s men’ Grattan Evans told The Hook following his appointment to the dual-role.
“We are progressive and ambitious and want to compete at the top level. We want to create a high performance culture through the club and this is what Nasir can hopefully bring as he has a proven record in clubs like Glenanne and Portrane.”
Evans has been a stalwart of the club since its formation in 1993, playing a part in their epic rise from the bottom rung of the men’s ladder to captaining them to promotion to Leinster Division One in the early 2000s.
But while that run was remarkable, he knew even then, it was unsustainable for the club in the long run.
“We had a good team back then and eventually got up through a tough, tough division ahead of Clontarf, Kilkenny, Naas. It was a really hard league to get out of but we got up.
“Then, in Division One, we had to get a couple of imports from Australia like Phil Marshall and Phil Davis and stayed up. The following year, we had no players coming through and so we realised quickly then we could only go so far with one group. The structure wasn’t there to sustain it.”
The women’s section had a similarly quick ascent and reached Leinster’s top tier before dropping back but there was always that realisation longevity would come through the junior section.
“You maybe over-emphasise your senior teams and of course you want them to play at a high level because it encourages people to come to your club,” Evans continued. “You have to build from the ground up and it is hard to get it right with no junior section.”
It has evolved since its first introduction in 1999 with Debbie Lee and Doug Keeley setting the wheels in motion with Donal Doyle the first youth rep on committee. Current President Caoimhe Guilfoyle took on the mantle before Eoin O’Brien and Sharon Bourke drove things on further.
All the while, it has grown exponentially with Bray now catering for around 400 girls and 100 boys, overseen by up to 75 volunteers – 50 coaches and 25 helpers. Friday night Under-16 girls sessions saw up to 60 players this year.
Now, the colts and fillies are organised by a Junior Taskforce of several members, such is the undertaking.
They have been bolstered by the foundation of Templecarrig School in Greystones, offering an extra pitch in the area to the traditional home at Loreto Bray.
Stephen Stewart – a star from Pembroke’s glory days around the turn of the century and, more recently, a Corinthian coach – links club and school neatly with coaching roles in each.
While the numbers are strong and facilities improving, Evans says elevating education standards to a wider base is crucial to drive retention and push onward toward the EYHL level, something which Munir will play a part in.
“He is coming on board as senior coach but also in an advisory role for the junior section, doing coaching workshops for the coaches with an emphasis on the juniors. We want him to help improve coaching standards through the club and build continuity from the bottom up to the top and we see him as key in the development of the club, particularly for the boys section.
“We have lost a lot of boys after Under-14 level in recent times but, last year, for the first time we fielded an Under-16 boys team and we are now seeing them stepping up to adult section for the first time. This is something we want to develop and build on.
“We want to keep building around the community of north Wicklow and offering them the best. We have seen progression at the likes of Portrane and Clontarf, both now in EY2, and this is something which we would like to emulate in the next few seasons and hopefully Nasir can be a catalyst for that.
“There is a huge population boom in the area and a lot of schools playing hockey with boys and girls in secondary school playing hockey as well as a lot of national schools. It’s about showing people we are investing and trying to give our local players and local kids the best.”
“It will put us in a strong position to develop our coaching culture and hopefully players won’t feel the need to head up the road to Dublin clubs.
“The committees over the last few years have really pushed it and there are a huge amount of volunteers – parents who play, parents who don’t helping out. We are very dependent on that and we are trying to develop all of them, get them onto Fundamentals courses, level ones etc.
“It’s a great club and a great area and, honest to God, I cannot believe how many players are in the club now. It’s quite scary. And now it’s about giving them the absolute best and putting the resources in.
“We want them to stay – there are lots of reasons for them to move like college or whatever – but we don’t want to be giving them a reason to go.”