Karl Lacey is Donegal GAA's new Head of Academy Development

New Academy Development Structure endorsed by county executive

Karl Lacey is Donegal GAA's new Head of Academy Development

Donegal manager Declan Bonner with Karl Lacey Picture Geraldine Diver

Only weeks after stepping down as a coach with Donegal’s senior footballers, Karl Lacey has been appointed into a new coaching role within Donegal GAA.

The Four Masters clubman is Donegal’s new Head of Academy Development.

He will lead up a new Academy Development Structure which has been developed by the county’s Games Development Manager Aaron Kyles.

The new project was endorsed at Monday evening’s county board executive meeting.

It will 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. 

As part of the programme Karl Lacey has been appointed as the new Head of Academy Development  for Donegal GAA. 

Karl, 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, although he stepped down from that role in early January.

Karl Lacey - the former county footballer brings a wealth of practical experience to his new role

Karl will lead on the programme design of the Donegal GAA Academy programme in collaboration with Aaron Kyles.

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.

The new project will aim to provide  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.



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 Cahill 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.


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