March 28, 2024

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.”


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.

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