Interview with Club Member "Mark Lawless"

1. How long have you been a member of Athenry FC?
- I'm a member since I started playing football, so that would be 20 years ago now.
I have been coaching since I was 19 and been on the Committee for two and half years.

2. Can you name three of your own achievements over the years?
1. Winning the Lillis Cup in 2016 on penalties. I was lucky enough to save two in the shootout.
2. Winning the Under 18 Championship with Colin. An unbeaten season in the league and unlucky not to make the Connacht final.
3. Debut season with the first team, winning the Michael Byrne Cup, scoring against Mervue Utd in Fahy's Field and scoring both goals against Galway Hibs away in a 2-1 win.

3. This season you are coaching the U21's and Academy. Do you prefer to coach younger or older age groups?
- There is plenty of differences between both groups. Each group challenges me in different ways which I like as then each session is different but I won't pick one, as I honestly feel they are equally enjoyable.

4. Recently you managed a Galway team which done very well. How was that experience?
- Last season, I managed the Galway FA U12s. Great season with them, we won the provincial final and we were unlucky in the national semi against a very good Donegal side. Great to see 8+ players get selected for the national assessments and most recently a large number getting signed for the Galwau United U13's. I was very fortunate to have Roger Leggett as my assistant, his knowledge and love for the game made it easy for me to coach with him, the players really enjoyed the sessions. Hopefully in the future we could go back to the GFA set up. Definitely something I want to do again in the future.

5. You have managed the U21's for the last two seasons now, since the GFA have introduced the league! In your opinion, what have been the difficulties with getting games played?
- It was always going to be a tough to get played at the start due to clashing with junior teams and lack of venues with floodlights. It will take time for this league to run smoothly but hopefully in the near future we can prove any doubters wrong. Big credit needs to go to the GFA and Tom Trill who have been driving hard to get this league running. I think the junior game in Galway will benefit greatly from this league in the coming years.

6. You recently completed your second Goalkeeping course and coach the academy keepers. How did you get into Goalkeeping having been a striker for most of your playing career?
- It wasn't something I had planned to do. At the time, the B team the keeper we had which was Aaron Leggett was getting trials for Galway and Ireland which meant he would being missing an number of games. I wasn't starting so I thought to myself, I had nothing to lose and missed not getting a game time. Since then its been interesting, plenty of ups and downs but still enjoying it. I won't rule out a return to outfield in the future

7. Having been involved with a wide range of roles at the Club, what role do you prefer and why?
- I have enjoyed all the roles I have been involved in over the last few years. I would like to stay coaching and playing. I want to continue with the young keepers in the club and still have some involvement with the under 21s.

8. Lastly, your U21 squad now has 6 players in the first team set up, is there a sense of pride in that? And how important is the success of the U21 league?
- Yes, its great to have 6 players in the first team squad. I am proud what they have achieved so far but there is still plenty to do. We have another 6-8 players who are not far off being able to make the transition to the first team squad. If I was to advise them or any young players in the club, just be patient, keep working hard and you will get your chance.
- I think we have to give all the credit for the ability of the current group to the coaches they had at underage. Coaches like Mike, Roger, Barclay, Colin, Clive, Noel, Joe, Tony, Michelle and Sean. They have all played a massive role in developing these players to what they are now.

Its massively important the league is a success, without this league only a handful of young players will make the transition to the Junior game. This will give them more time to develop, those extra couple of years will make the move easier. If we look at the current league their is 8 teams, each teams averages a squad of 18-20 which means there is 144-160 players staying on to players, these age group usually have one of the highest drop off rates. To have 8 teams and 160ish players in a newly set up league us not a bad start. If we look at Athenry FC right now we have the right people involved at under 18s , 21s and Junior level, all these coaches want the players too develop and progress as high as each individual player wants too. This gives the players a clear pathway which will give the club a bright future.

Thank you,
@athenry_afc / #athenry_afc