GAA- Speed Training (part 2)

Speed training for GAA Part 2

Firstly I’d like to thank Coach James for asking me to write a piece on his blog and I’d also like to thank him for all his hard work keeping us all up to date by posting research papers, PDF’s etc.  In this post we will discuss types of training on the field and in the gym that will help increase a player’s speed, following up on the previous post that discussed Plyometrics, Acceleration and Max Velocity.

Speed is probably the most sought after and important aspect of almost any sport, so for this blog I will discuss/show some Speed drills for GAA along with other more team orientated speed work during training for Gaelic Football.


Speed Endurance 

Speed endurance will not change stride rate or stride length, at least on the first short sprint. But it will determine the amount of slowing at the end of a long sprint, the pace at which acceleration to max speed occurs and even on repetitive short sprints. In other word players with poor speed endurance will not be able to accelerate and sprint at a high level due to fatigue (High Performance Sports Conditioning by Bill Foran). So increasing a player’s Speed endurance can in fact make an athlete seem faster but in actual fact you are increasing their anaerobic fitness which in turn will increase their ability to run fast for longer more frequently. It is vital that athletes perform a good warm up including aspects of the session they are about to do. E.G. High Knees, ladders, mini hurdles etc to mimic running form for 10 to 15 minutes while incorporating a football or slitor with some skills like kick passing soloing handpassing etc.


  • Set 6 cones 5 meters apart in a straight line with the first cone the starting cone.
  • Players run as fast as possible to the first cone, touch the cone, turn and sprint back to the start touch and sprint to the 2nd cone and continue out to the 6th cone while turning on each cone and sprinting back to the start after each cone touch.
  • Rest for 90 seconds with active recovery and go again.
  • Perform 5 to 8 of these runs.
  • All in all if 5 overall runs are done athletes will end up sprinting 750 meters.

Only allowing athletes 90 seconds rest between repeated sprints will not allow them to fully recover. The rest should be active rest so have some balls nearby for players to jog at a very low pace passing the ball between 2 athletes. By not allowing full recovery the players will produce high levels of lactic acid in a short period of time. In training like this, players will condition their body to tolerate high levels of lactic acid while allowing them to perform better due to their superior fitness. Bear in mind this is extremely difficult and teams/players should only perform it once a week during Football season and possibly twice a week during preseason (definitely) or during long breaks between games. An overall training session should only last 30 to 60 minutes with the speed endurance drill lasting roughly 10 to 15 minutes. Ball work at a medium to low intensity after the speed endurance work and then a thorough cool down would be advisable.

Acceleration & Deceleration: 

Acceleration is an increase in speed forward, backward and sideways, in football it is done from a number of positions such as starting from a stationary position, walking or jogging. In its simplest form the player moves at a greater rate of speed. Deceleration is a decrease in speed, the slowing of the body after high speed and in need to stop or change direction. It happens when players are at high speed and need to time their run for a pass, or if the opposing team intercepts the ball and the player has to stop decelerate change direction and accelerate again back towards his own goal in order to prevent the other team from scoring.


  • Set cones at different intervals along a straight line about 5 and 10 meters apart. Possible from the end line to the half way  line.
  • Athletes will accelerate for the 10 meter distance and decelerate once they reach the 5 meter cones and be ready to accelerate again on the 10 meter cone.
  • The easiest way to do this is have cones of different colours e.g. red for decelerating and green for accelerating.
  • 8 cones will suffice so it would be a 50 meter acceleration and deceleration combo.
  • Perform 2 reps with a 3 minute active rest. Possibly 3 to 4 sets depending on the training session.

These 2 aspects of speed happen throughout games whether you’re tackling, being tackled on the ball soloing or making a run for the ball acceleration and deceleration happen constantly in most sports so training for it is important.


Agility is the ability to move in many different directions at a high speed. It requires a combination of balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, strength, endurance and stamina. In my opinion it is the most crucial component in Handball, Gaelic Football, Basketball, Hurling and most sports. Of all the movement skills players need, being able to react and read to move in any direction quickly and under control agility is probably the most important. Quickness of an individual limb like abducting the arm to intercept a pass, players need to be agile to complete the movement but also to get into the position they need to be quick. Fast feet in team sports can be vital to attackers, defenders and goalkeepers; they need to be able to turn quickly and accelerate away toward the ball or their opposing player or to avoid a tackle and being agile will most definitely help that.

It goes without question that there are quite a lot of aspects in agility and it would be nearly impossible to train them all in 1 training session especially when you have 18 to 30 athletes. So in my opinion the best way to train agility is in small sided conditioned games. Players are getting in sport specific training while increasing their ball skills they will also increase agility, reaction, anticipation, deceleration, and acceleration, game specific movement patterns along with learning to maintain speed while under stress, strain and fatigue.


  • Depending on the amount at training set out small squares with cones 10 yards apart.
  • Have 2 teams of 3 in each square (bibs).
  • Set the clock for 1 minute 30 seconds and have them play a possession game for that time.
  • Rest for 1 minute taking on water and repeat again 3 times (6 minutes of hard competitive game play).
  • After the 4th set is complete have the players do a low intensity ball drills while you set up the next game.
  • Increase pitch size, player numbers and introduce goals, solos, etc.
  • Keep the pitch size small but not so small that the players can’t move but small enough that they can go at their highest intensity for 1:30 to 3 minutes with rest periods of 1 to 2 minutes. 

I hope you all enjoyed reading this post and can take something away from it to help you and or your team become faster and more competitive.

In the clip we show some of the warm up with the ball and some ladder/hurdle work with acceleration incorporated. A speed endurance drill at a low pace because it was before training and we hadn’t a proper warm up done at that stage. Forgot to tell 1 of the boys but you will still see what the drill is like. Acceleration and deceleration with and without the ball. And a conditioned game. Now things may not look perfect but you should get the idea of what is a good way to train speed. 

Id personally like to thank Donal for the post and look forward to continuing to work with him as he is the coach i have working with clients in the munster region for me. If you want more info on training contact us via email or through our facebook and twitter page

Coach James

Donal O’ Connor.

Strength & Conditioning Coach (North Cork/East Kerry)


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