April 3, 2024

Mayo GAA’s Ryan O’Donoghue on How to Play Corner Forward

Mayo GAA’s Ryan O’Donoghue is one of the top attackers in the country right now and in this blog shares his insight and tips on how to play the corner forward  role.

Any young, aspiring footballer will benefit hugely from the advice of Belmullet native O’Donoghue.

The former All Star has adapted and evolved his game from a roaming centre forward with the Mayo underage teams, to one of Mayo’s leading attackers.

O’Donoghue opens up and talks on:

  • A quality over quantity approach to kicking practice
  • Overcoming a bad injury and working on his fitness & recovery
  • Missing only 2 pitch sessions out of 70 with Mayo in one year
  • Playing 12 games in 4 weeks
  • Working with James Horan on a ‘Red to Blue’ mindset approach

He spoke to Intersport Elverys whilst promoting Mayo GAA’s new New York training jersey available right now.

His teammate, Mattie shared his expert insight into how to play midfield aswell.

While Mayo’s Eoghan McLaughlin spoke in great detail on the requirements of a modern way wing back. 

mayo gaa star ryan o donoghue tells us how to play corner forward and tips

Describing the Modern Day Corner Forward Role

O’Donoghue admits that knowing how to play corner forward has changed in recent years.

Space is hard got, compared to what it was in the less-defensive focused inter-county football we saw back when Mayo and Dublin fought it out around 16/17, he said.

“The game now is a lot slower than what it used to be because teams are a lot more defensive,” he said. “Teams have 12 or 13 behind the ball now and that gives a lot less opportunities for one-v-ones in corner forward, which there used to be a lot of.

Ryan o donoghue of mayo gaa shares his insight on the modern day how to play corner forward in the GAA

“Now it’s slower, so my chances of getting one-on-one has gone down, per-game. So when you now do find yourself in that situation, it could be 4-6 times a game, you need to be ready. It’s more first-time shooting now, as opposed to taking men on.

“The club game isn’t as bad; it’s definitely more open and more enjoyable. The inter-county game is not like what it used to be in Mayo/Dublin All-Ireland finals with 15 on 15 – that was more enjoyable for the fans and the players.”

What are the main skills a Corner Forward needs?

The former All Star emphasizes the importance of a good first touch, whilst also adding that a strong-mindset is key in the modern game to staying patient and focused.

He contributes a lot of this to work Mayo did with their former manager, James Horan.

“The most important skill for me is getting my first touch right,” he said. “If that’s not good you can’t do anything. I have worked on this since my minor days.

“That’s making the ball stick, gathering it first time, because good corner backs now are very tight and you have to be able to catch the ball out in front.

“Secondly, shot efficiency. Making sure I get set for every shot, not taking pot shots. And obviously with my style, free taking is up there. So keeping my routine and getting a few shots off in the warm up.

“Also, in modern day football, you might not touch the ball for ten minutes, especially in the league, so your mindset has to be ready for when the ball comes to you and you dont force it.

“That’s where working on the ‘Red to Blue‘ mindset helps. We worked a lot on this under James Horan and it is something the All Blacks did. Red means being anxious and reactive, while blue is about being relaxed, cool and composed.

“It’s a 30-second mindset.”

How do you practice Free Taking?

O’Donoghue recently suffered from a long-term groin injury, which curtailed his ability to train.

Now he adopts a ‘quality over quantity’ approach to kicking.

And sticks to his 25 shot training strategy.

“I actually don’t do crazy amounts of practicing outside training,” he admitted. “With gym work, living in Galway and the unavailability of pitches, as well as managing my load from my previous groin injuries.

mayo gaa star ryan o donoghue shares his advice on how to play corner forward and tips on free taking

“Andy Moran told me a long time ago, it’s quality over quantity and I get most of my practice done during training. I make sure I get 25 shots in – so if Stephen Rochford or Donie Buckley is explaining a drill, I might get 3 or 4 frees in then. Then I might get 2 in during the drill, and 3 or 4 in before another drill.

“Then at the end I calculate what I have got and make up the difference to 25. Until the weather gets better and evenings longer in during the summer in Belmullet, will I get a bit more done, but not craxy amounts.

“But when I do get down, it’s 25 shots -13 right and 12 left – and I mark my percentages. I want to be above 85 or 90 percent because I think I am a 90 percent shooter in my range, which is anywhere within 5 metres outside the top of the ‘D’.”

How Physicality & Fitness is important to play Corner Forward

GPS metrics are a big factor in inter-county performance reporting, but O’Donoghue admitted he doesn’t spend too much time focusing on them.

He did say, however, that he has placed more emphasis on his aerobic ability over the past few years.

And that has allowed him to rack up an incredible training consistency.

“I don’t look at data too much, I rather look at my impact on the scoreboard,” he said. “If you spend too much time looking at the GPS, you’ll end up running around the sake of it!

“Fitness wise, this is something I have worked on though. In previous years, like 2021, I went through the season with Mayo and got to an All-Ireland Final and then straight on to a County Final with Belmullet. I only took 4 weeks off then and went back for pre-season, but got injured in 2022 and that was a learning.

“The following year we were doing running sessions by ourselves in November to be ready for December 1 collective training and I only missed 2 pitch sessions out of over 70, which I put down to being fit, recovering well and having a good off-season.

“You need a certain level of physicality now too because tackling is a big part of a corner forward’s role. All the best forwards work back inside their ’45, like David Clifford and Shane McGuigan.

“A turnover at the top of the ‘D’ can be as good as a score sometimes and we take a lot of pride in this.”

What kind of player do you not like marking?

Most forwards will tell you, they hate to see their marking bombing up and down the field.

O’Donoghue is no different.

“You don’t like to see your marker going up all the time,” he laughed. “But sometimes it’s a cat and mouse game. You let them go and gamble on a turnover and then you might get a goal the other side of it.

“They might not go as often then!

“But a good corner back is always in your face, physical, tight and good on the ball. It’s easier marking a corner back not good on the ball because you can set traps on them then, but in today’s game there’s not many like that.

Advice for Young Players?

Similar to his Mayo teammates, O’Donoghue’s advice centres around pitch time over gym time.

“If I was going back to my younger self, I’d work more on both sides,” he candidly admitted. “Even though I do work on both now, I would do more because the higher the level you go, the better the defenders and they know all about your tendencies.

“Every corner back I play against knows what I am going to do. So over the past 12-18 months I have really been working on my non-dominant side.

“You also don’t need to be in the gym if you are in your early teens. You don’t need big arms back then! Get out on the pitch, take our 25 shots, rate them, and keep going until you are hitting that 90 percent mark.”


If you are interested in learning more about the wider dynamics of Gaelic Football Positions, make sure to check out the blog in the link.

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mayo gaa star ryan o donoghue shares his advice on how to play corner forward

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