How to play Midfield with Mayo GAA & All Star Mattie Ruane

You’ve heard it some many times in the past: If you get on top in the midfield battle, you’ll go a long way to winning the game.

That’s why it’s important to have solid players there, ones who know exactly how to play midfield in the modern game.

Intersport Elverys is proud title sponsors of Mayo GAA and we’re delighted to have All Star midfielder Mattie Ruane sharing his secret sauce to the role.

In this blog, the Breaffy man talks:

  • the basics of the role
  • How plyometrics helped his game
  • Seeking advice from AFL and basketball coaches
  • Sharing advice for his younger self

And more.

This blog is part of our wider Gaelic Football Positions Breakdown, where we spoke to Mayo’s Eoghan McLaughlin about Wing Back too. 

Read on for Mattie’s advice.

You don’t want to miss this.

Mayo GAA star Mattie ruane shares hs advice on how to play midfield

Understanding How to Play Midfield in Modern Day GAA

Mattie Ruane believes the basic principles of playing in midfield hasn’t changed as drastically as other positions on the field.

However, he says the athletic requirements and expectations have gone to another level.

An All Star winner in midfield in 2021, Ruane is currently one of the top midfielders and athletes in the modern game.

“A modern day midfielder needs to be athletic and needs to get around the pitch,” he said. “It hasn’t changed a whole lot from the basic fundementals which we would have seen traditionally.

“Essentially back in the day you needed to be strong on the kickout, strong in your defensive duties and able to get forward too.

“The biggest change or focus is probably on the athlete itself, in that you are now required to get around the pitch a lot more, rather than sitting and holding the midfield area and winning the ball from kickouts and being physically dominant.”

Mayo GAA star Mattie ruane shares hs advice on how to play midfield

What are the main skills a midfielder needs in the GAA?

Breaffy clubman Ruane believes the midfield role requires players to be adept at all the basic skills as you are exposed to all different situations.

He also added that in terms of his own game, he likes to focus on individual targets for the different skills to help maximise his performance and role in the team.

“When you are in midfield you need to be pretty good at everything or you are going to be found out pretty quickly,” he laughed. “Because you are exposed to a lot of possessionand one-on-one situations.

“The main skill requirements are handling firstly, that is huge, along with kickpassing, handpassing and all the basic fundamentals.

“You also need good footwork in midfield, because beating your man is very important. As is tackling around the middle.

“I always focus on targets – trying to get 3 scores a game, 3 turnovers and getting good, strong contact on the ball for kickouts. So either catching it cleanly or getting a break where you are dictating where the ball is landing ahead of your marker.

“Number one, you want to catch it clean, particularly on your own kickouts. On the opposition kickouts, great if you can catch it clean but if you can box it forward and keep the pressure on there, that is also good.”

The Importance of the Midfielder-Goalkeeper Relationship & Plyometrics

It is clear that Ruane is a deep thinker of the game, and a player who leaves no stone unturned in his preparation.

A few years ago he sought out the expertise of AFL coaches to try and improve his catching ability, as well as basketball coaches to improve his landing and evasiveness.

Good football boots also help with this, check out this blog for our Top Boots for 2024. 

Fascinating stuff here.

Mayo GAA star Mattie ruane shares hs advice on how to play midfield

“Your relationship [as a midfielder] with your goalkeeper is huge,” he said. “A couple of years ago when I wanted to improve that part of my game, I reached out to AFL guys and asked them about marks.

“One of the things they said was the relationship with the kicker, and their teammates, about getting a solid understanding with them.

“So in our game, that would be the goalkeeper. Learning and getting to know his strengths, the flight of their ball, and getting your timing right off the back of that. The timing was huge.

“They also do a lot of plyometrics; learning how to jump and land correctly. I reached out to basketball coaches on this too and watched a lot of videos. Plyos are essentially jumping and landing, so if you’re more confident landing on one foot, it’s a psychological thing that allows your body to jump higher.

“So I do a lot of these before gym sessions,” he continued.

“They are great for footwork. I didn’t like them at first because you feel like you are doing nothing, that it’s a waste of time because it’s not as sexy as doing bicep curls or shoulder presses and getting a bigger pump on.

“But this is training your body to land in the correct way and that can have a massive impact on your ability to turn and jump and it prevents injuries too.”

Learning how to cope with the Physical Demands to play midfield in the GAA

Aside from being required to be excellent at the basic skills, you also need an engine to play midfield.

It’s high volume, multi-directional running with a lot of accelerations and decelerations.

Quite similar to a corner forward in that way, as Mayo GAA’s Ryan O’Donoghue shares in this blog.

Ruane points out that your diet has a huge influence on being a successful midfielder right now.

“First and foremost, you need to be at the top of the running in training,” he said. “If you’re anywhere in the middle 8, you are covering a lot of ground, hitting 11 or 12km.

“But the big thing and what seperates the top players is how much of that you are doing at high speed, how many times you are able to change direction, accels and decals.

“Any junior player can cover 11km but it’s that stuff that seperates the elite.

“Your diet is also huge. I remember hearing a comment a few years ago: ‘Next time I see you you should be wearing an extra large jersey’, which was ridiculous.

“Most modern midfielders are barely touching 90kg now. You need to be really lean, carrying as little extra weight as possible, but still enough to be strong, and to tackle hard, break tackles and hold your ground in the jostling for kickouts.”

Advice for young GAA players wondering how to play Midfield?

The mental part of the game is a major element of Ruane’s football.

To get the best out of himself he is always looking for the small percentages in mindset and when asked for his advice, this side of him comes out there.

“I always say, I love marking someone who isn’t as quick or as agile as me, so if you flip that, that’s what makes a midfielder really hard to mark,” he said.

“It’s difficult to mark someone who is hungry for the ball, is constantly trying to get inbehind me and put me thinking defensively because is taking a part of my game away.

“So in terms of how to play, mdifielders should be forward thinking and trying to take a part of your marker’s game away.

“But also, I would say that you should be enjoying it. Go out and keep having fun.”

Conclusion

Follow Mattie Ruane’s advice and you can’t go wrong.

Working on basic skills, your atheleticism and constantly tring to find those little few inches of improvement is what has him at the very top of the game.

Intersport Elverys is proud sponsors of Mayo GAA.

Check out our website for a full range of county jerseys and training ranges.

Or click on the link below.


Empowering Women at Intersport Elverys | International Women’s Day

This International Women’s Day, Intersport Elverys is thrilled to spolight how we embrace and promote Women in Sports Empowerment.

We are celebrating our many talented female staff members and Brand Ambassadors.

Their inspiring stories are not just about sports, but also about how resilience and teamwork can lead to success.

At Intersport Elverys, we are actively supporting our female athletes and staff members, from the grassroots to the elite, to be the very best they can be.

Our goal is create an inclusive and supportive environment where woman can thrive in their sports.

In this blog, you will hear from a female elite referee, para-rower, International sprint hurdler and runner, gaelic football, soccer and camoige stars.

Enjoy.

Empowering Women in Sports Q&As

Sharlene Mwadsley – Irish Athletics 400m Runner

Q. In what ways do you think sports can empower women, beyond the field or course? 

A. “Sport brings a lot of women together.

“For me it’s always a conversation topic. People ask me about it and they’re actually genuinely interested. People coming up to you telling me I’m a huge role model – that’s something that I never even dreamt that I would be.

Outside of the track and field, sport gets people to enjoy what they do and even just to have a healthy lifestyle – you’re on the on the right path.

Q. What sportswoman or team inspires you the most?

A. “In athletics there’s obviously so many great and amazing girls at the moment – Rhasidat Adeleke, Ciara Mageann but also my 4 x 400m women’s team because no matter what, there’s such a huge support within the team itself so just being a part of that team like that really inspires me.”

Q. What advice would you give to your 16 year old self?

A. “Don’t be so hard on yourself.

“You really get caught up in the moment of what’s going on and transitioning into being a senior athlete isn’t the easiest thing, so I definitely would tell myself that it’s actually okay to not put so much pressure on myself and that to succeed, just to trust the process.”

 Q. What guidance would you offer to girls contemplating quitting sport?

A. “I would say ‘Don’t – keep trying!’ And ‘You never know if you don’t try’.

“When I was younger I was never really good. I was just always pretty average and then it was just that I ended up having a breakthrough when I was around 17 and I wouldn’t have known that I would have ever had that breakthrough if I didn’t keep going. 

 Q. Who is the woman you admire or look up to that was outside of sports?

A. “My mom, haha! Does everyone say their mom?

“My mum had me when she was quite young and I feel like she did everything she could to make sure that I always had everything that I needed and she always put me into anything like any sport that I wanted to try out.

“Even now every meter that I run on the track, I know she runs it with me and she’s the most nervous person – even more nervous than I am.

“She’s someone who’s always been there for me, through the highs, through the lows, and I know that she’ll be there till the end. I was very blessed that my mom was like that.

“All it takes is one influential voice and even if that was me saying that to one person and they took it onboard.”

Q. What challenges have you faced as a female athlete and how have you overcome them? 

A. “For me I have just faced challenges in my own performances, and I don’t think I have had any in athletics – I feel it’s 50:50 with males to females so I’ve only ever dealt with the disappointment that I have had to overcome in my own athletics career.

“Not going to the Olympics in ‘21 was really disappointing for me but I obviously came back from that and I’m a lot mentally tougher because of it.” 

Katie O’Brien – Irish International Para-Rower and World Champion

Q. Who is a woman you admire or look up to? 

A. “My Granny is a women I admire.

“She is extremely intelligent, kind, caring and is constantly doing nice things for other people but never looks for anything in return.

“She’s is just quietly impressive, loving and most definitely admirable.”

 Q. What sportswoman or team inspires you the most? 

A. “Katie Taylor is my sporting hero.

“She’s insanely hard working, always striving to be her best, and is such a lovely person.

“I love how she inspires both men and women of all ages.”

 Q. What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self? 

A. I think I’d tell her to have more confidence in herself and who she is. I think all 16 year olds need to hear that!”

 Q. What guidance would you offer to girls contemplating quitting sports? 

A. “I’d say to keep up something, it doesn’t have to be competitive, but find something that you enjoy doing!

“There’s  so many options out there, you may just not have found your sport yet!

“I didn’t find rowing until I was 16.”

Q. In what ways do you think sports can empower women beyond the field or court? 

A. “Sport teaches you so many lessons.

“It shows you how to work hard, how to believe in yourself, to feel strong, how to be brave and how to face a challenge face on. ”

 Q. What challenges have you faced as a female athlete, and how have you overcome them? 

A. “Fortunately, within rowing there is very little disparity between the interest in male and female racing.

“So I’m quite lucky in that respect. ”

Claire Purcell – FAI Elite Referee & Intersport Elverys Staff

Claire is a member of the FAI Elite Referee Panel.

She was the first female official to referee a Junior Cup Final in Ozier Park and refereed the Senior Women’s Cup Final in 2020. 

Claire has had quite the journey with Intersport Elverys since she started as a Sports Adviser in Waterford in 2016, promoted to Key Holder in 2019, took part in our Emerging Manager programme in 2021 and was promoted again to Assistant Manager in Waterford in 2022. 

Q. Who is a woman you admire or look up to? 

A. “A woman I’d look up to is my mam.

“She’s hard-working, caring and is always willing to help with anything.

“She always puts everyone before herself and without her, I don’t think I would be half the woman I am today.”

Q. What sportswoman or team inspires you the most? 

A. “A sportswoman I would look up to is Stephaine Frappart.

“She is a female referee from France. She has achieved a lot for female referees.

“She was the first female to referee a mens UEFA champions league match in 2019 and first female to referee in the mens World Cup. She is very inspirational and paved the way for future female referees.”

Q. What/Who inspired you to pursue a career in sports? 

A. “My dad inspired me to be a referee.

“He is a referee too and noticed that there weren’t many female referees and encouraged me to take up the whistle.

“I have always been involved in sport and always loved to run so it’s great to be able to do both.”

Q. What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self as an aspiring athlete? 

A. “Keep believing in yourself.

“Always push yourself to the next level. It’s not always going to be easy but there are many positives that come out of it.

“A quote I would tell my 16-year-old self would be: ‘Without rain, there would never be rainbows’, meaning that all the challenges you face will pay off in the end.”

Q. What guidance would you offer to girls contemplating quitting sports? 

A. “Don’t give up.

“Sport is so good for your mental health and offers an escape from a mundane type of lifestyle.

“It can build confidence in social aspects but also in physical aspects. I you genuinely love doing sports, you should never let a small factor hinder your passion.”

Q. In what ways do you think sports can empower women beyond the field, track, court etc? 

A. “I feel like on the field, I have a voice which then empowers me to speak up in certain situations in life.

“As a referee, we need to be fit which off the field, gives a confidence boost.”

Q. What challenges have you faced as a female athlete, and how have you overcome them? 

A. “As a referee, when I started, it was difficult as there wasn’t many female referees and didn’t feel confident in myself and sometimes doubted myself.

“Over time, my confidence grew and have made friendships along the way.”

Q. For you, who is the most inspirational woman on the planet, and why? 

A. “For me, I think that Molly-Mae Hague is an inspirational woman as she is a person who overcame what people thought of her.

“She is very young and has achieved her own brand, clothing collaborations and made herself an entrepreneur.

“She always talks about how to forget what people think and to do what makes you happy. She is very family orientated too, which is something I can relate to.”

Sarah Dillon – Westmeath LGFA & Intersport Elverys Staff

Sarah was the 2021 TG4 Intermediate Players’ Player of the Year after.

Her county, Westmeath beat Wexford in the Mary Quinn Memorial Cup to win the Ladies All Ireland Intermediate football championship title.

Sarah scored 1-6 in the final and was player of the match. 

She has been a Sports Advisor in Elverys Lakepoint since 2020.

Q. Who is a woman you admire or look up to? 

A. “One of the most iconic sports people of all time in my opinion has got to be Katie Taylor.

“Katie came from a humble background and is living proof that hard work pays off.

“She is such an inspirational figure and a perfect role model for all budding athletes.”

Q. What sports woman or team inspires you the most? 

A. “Growing up my biggest aspiration was to play with my local club, Milltown Ladies.

“I followed them from a very early age and looked up to numerous players on our team who represented both club and county.

“My dream was to play with them and it wasn’t long before I was training with them, playing with them and became part of a huge sporting family who have helped me and inspired me through many difficult times in my life.

“Being part of a dedicated hard working and inclusive team makes playing sport so enjoyable.”

Q. What/Who inspired you to pursue a career in sports? 

A. “Both my parents encouraged me to take part in sport.

“They both played sport and believed that the values learnt from sport would help in every aspect of life.

“My mam was the coach of our local basketball team and my dad is the Milltown Ladies coach and both have inspired me to pursue my love of sport instilling in me a good work ethic and never give up attitude that can be incorporated into everyday life.”

Q. What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self as an aspiring athlete? 

A. “I would have told my 16 year-old self that recovery and injury prevention are vital parts of enjoying sport and prolonging your career to play at a high level.

“I would encourage my 16 year old self to enjoy the moment more and to not put as much pressure on myself to perform.”

Q. What guidance would you offer to girls contemplating quitting sports? 

A. “Don’t …….. just think about all the things you would be giving up.

“The obvious benefits are your health, wellbeing, fitness and the social element.

“The most important part is the lifelong friendships that you form. The exciting roads that sports lead you down and the numerous doors that sport open for you.”

 Q. In what ways do you think sports can empower women beyond the field, track, court etc? 

A. “I believe to be successful in sport you have to follow some simple life rules, which are work hard, work as part of a team, take criticism and try to improve yourself upon it, follow direction and remember you can get nothing for nothing in this world you get out of life what you put in.”

Q. What challenges have you faced as a female athlete, and how have you overcome them? 

A. “By playing sport at a high level can often come with injuries – unfortunately I have sustained bilateral ACL reconstructions and bilateral shoulder reconstructions.

“These injuries have taught me resilience and to appreciate how precious a sports career can be, it has taught me not to take for granted the privilege of being involved in sport.

“These injuries helped me deal with setbacks in life and the importance of preparing your body and mind to the best of your ability let that be in the gym, mindfulness, and nutrition or anything that is required to help you achieve your best in anything you do in life”

Q. For you, who is the most inspirational woman on the planet, and why? 

A. “For me the most inspirational women is Michelle Obama, I believe her outlook on life teaches us that we are able to do anything that we put our mind to let that be in our life choices or in sport.

“She was famously quoted in saying ‘Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourself with a good education then get out there and use that’.

“I have brought this mentality into my sport and feel that it has helped me reach higher goals.”

 Sarah Quinn – Irish Sprint Hurdler

Q. Who is a woman you admire or look up to? 

A. “So many but I’d have to say my Mam!”

Q. What sports woman or team inspires you the most?

A. “Sarah Lavin .”

Q. What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?

A. “You’re on time for your own life .”

Q. What guidance would you offer to girls contemplating quitting sports? 

A. “There is a world of opportunity out there if you’re willing to work hard, stay the course and focus on your own journey! ”

Q. In what ways do you think sports can empower women beyond the field or court?

A. “Sport can give you confidence and an ability to tackle any situation that comes your way.

“If you’re able to tackle setbacks on the track/pitch then you’re better able to handle them off the track/pitch too. ”

Q. What challenges have you faced as a female athlete, and how have you overcome them?

A. “I would say I’m very fortunate to be involved in a sport that doesn’t have much gender bias within it.

“The challenges I’ve faced are what you would normally imagine within any sporting environment.

“Fun, patience, perseverance and hard work have seen me through all of my setbacks! 😊 “

Lauran Robinson – Dublin Camógie & Intersport Elverys Staff

Lauran plays on the Dublin Camógie team.  

She started with us in Santry & Henry Street as a Sports Advisor and moved to Suffolk Street after Henry Street Closed and was promoted to Key Holder this year.

Q. Who is a woman I admire or look up to? 

A. “One woman I admire and look up to is Malala Yousafzai.

“Malala is a Pakistani activist for female education who gained global recognition after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban at the age of 15.

“Despite facing adversity and risking her life for her beliefs, she continues to advocate for the rights of girls to receive an education.

“Malala’s courage, resilience, and unwavering dedication to promoting education and gender equality serve as an inspiration to millions around the world, including myself.”

Q. What sports woman or team inspires you the most? 

A. “Serena Williams is a tennis legend who has dominated the sport for over two decades.

“Her incredible athleticism, determination, and resilience have made her an inspiration to athletes around the world.

“Despite facing numerous challenges and setbacks throughout her career, including injuries and health issues, Serena has consistently demonstrated her unmatched skill and mental toughness on the court.

“Beyond her achievements in tennis, Serena has also been a powerful advocate for gender equality and social justice, using her platform to speak out on important issues.

“Her impact on the world of sports and beyond is truly remarkable and continues to inspire generations of athletes.”

Q. What/Who inspired you to pursue a career in sports?  

A. “Starting off playing GAA for my local club there wasn’t a girls’ team that I could join so I used to train and play matches with all the boys’ teams.

“So, that gave me the foundation of skills and confidence, so when it got to the time there was a girls’ team, I always stood out and wanted to try being the best I could, and that passion has just continued.”

Q. What advice would you give to your 16 year old self? 

A. “I would tell myself that you only learn by making mistakes.

“So, making mistakes is completely okay cause how else are you meant to learn?”

Q. What advice would you offer girls contemplating quitting sports? 

A. “Sports is such a good way to be able to take your mind off things and make so many friends.

“Some of my best friends today I have met through playing camogie.

Going to training meeting your friends outside of a school setting 2/3 times a week will be the memories you’ll always reminder as you start to get older.” 

Q. In what ways do you think sports can empower a woman beyond the field? 

A. “I think sports can teach anyone about resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity.

“Dealing with losses of important matches, setbacks like not making the starting 15, and injuries on the field, learning these from a young age can help anyone  bounce back from challenges in other areas of life too, such as academics and careers.

“It’s just like going back to training the following week and putting 110% effort even if you lost that match or didn’t start or the job interview or test didn’t go as you’d of hoped you are back training the next week just like you apply for another job or study harder for the next test.”

Q. What challenges have you faced as a female athlete? 

A. “Well, I think from the start even from there not being a girls camogie team for when I wanted to join, I think that challenge of the equality in sports between men and women has always been prevalent throughout my whole career.

“From money allocated to the boys team vs the girls, pitch times and conditions of the pitches that we got versus the boys and also even down to the gear we are given and the amount of food we were given after matches.

“Although there have been many strides to rectify this in recent years, it is still a relevant topic from county teams down to club levels too.”

Q. Who is the most inspirational woman on the planet? 

A. “I’d have to say without a shadow of a doubt my Mam who is my best friend has always been my biggest inspiration to me.

“She embodies the essence of strength, resilience, and unconditional love, serving as a constant source of guidance and support throughout my entire life’s journey so far.

“From all the ups and downs from winning back-to-back Ireland finals with college to losing championship finals with club and facing relegation in county and many injuries along the way, she’s the first person there with the biggest hug no matter the occasion.”

Jenna Slattery – Galway United & Intersport Elverys Staff

Q. Who is a women I admire or look up to ?

A. “My Mother.”

Q. What sports woman or team inspires you the most?

A. “Katie Taylor”

Q. What/Who inspired you to pursue a career in sports?

A. “My Family.”

Q. What advice would you give to your 16 year old self?

A. “Never give up, keep believe in the process.” 

Q. What advice would you offer girls contemplating quitting sports?

A. “Don’t quit unless you are sure it’s the right decision for you.

“Have a good think of all the positive effects it has on your life no matter how little or big each little positivity sports brings to you is a reason to not give up, sports can develop you as a person in the everyday world and it’s not just in sport.

“My advice would be to sit down and reflect on why they are thinking of quitting but on those reasonings. I would try see if I could see the alternatives to these and trying to find a way to turn the negatives of why you should quit to, how can I change this and flip that thought in a positive effect.”

Q. In what ways do you think sports can empower a woman beyond the field?

A. “Sports gives you a drive to be the best version of you wether that be on the field or off the field, it empowers females to have greater confidence in themselves as the strive in sports showcasing their abilities, talents gaining a sense of empowerment and self-worth.

Q. What challenges have you faced as a female athlete?

A. “I have faced many challenges in my playing time, from at a young such as not getting picked for the Munster squad and being in the final 2 to get dropped aswell as when moving to a different club trying to balance school and football then trying to push to be my best in training and matches.

“I have pushed myself ever since having set backs which are not always a bad thing, if you go the right way about them they can have a positive effect on you as a person and always your playing time.

“You learn who you are as a person and how you can build yourself back up to be a bigger better and stronger person.

“I’ve had to get an understand of when you put your head down focus on your belief, understanding that there is a process to everything and if you but your head down you’ll find a way to achieve anything once you work hard and believe.”

Q. Who is the most inspirational woman on the planet?

A. “For me to be the person I am today, my mother is the most inspirational woman I know, even though my mam has had upsets in life she never stops been the amazing woman she is.

“Everyday she gets up and is determined to make the most out of the day no matter if it’s on tough days or good days she never fails in providing the best for herself and not only herself but for us as a family.

“My mother is strong, independent, beautiful, empowering, she has made me become the person I am today.”

 

 Conclusion

We love our sports at Intersport Elverys.

And we also love to promote inclusivity and empowerment with our female athletes through sport.

Check out our website for more information.


Win a gift card worth €250 from Intersport Elverys

Win a gift card worth €250 to bag yourself a new pair of the latest running shoes from Intersport Elverys in association with Athletics Ireland and Irish Runner magazine.

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Win a Mascot place for the Rep. of Ireland v Belgium

As an official sponsor of the FAI, we are giving you the opportunity to win a mascot place for the Rep. of Ireland v Belgium game on March 23rd. To enter simply enter your details below. Entries close March 15th. Winners will be contacted via email/phone.

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