Arsenal guru Des Ryan hails the impact of Setanta College on the global sporting stage

Brian McDonnell


Brian McDonnell


Liam Hennessy.

Liam Hennessy - the director of Setanta College.

Des Ryan, the head of sports medicine and athletic development at the Arsenal academy, has hailed the impact of Setanta College on the global sporting stage. Speaking to the Tipperary Star this week Des Ryan explained that many third level institutions fail to prepare students for the practical requirements associated with working in elite sport, but, in contrast, Setanta College “prepares people for the real world”.

Des Ryan, who joined Arsenal in 2013 and built the sports science and medical team at the London club's academy, argued that many university graduates are not prepared for the practical requirements associated with working in an elite sporting environment - graduates may have a well-developed conceptual understanding of the sports science associated with preparing elite athletes, but, on a practical level, those same graduates are, often, unprepared, for example, to run a warm-up, coach a speed session or, indeed, design a strength and conditioning programme.

In contrast Setanta College concentrates on ensuring that everything the institution's students are exposed to is done so with the practical implications in mind.

Dr Liam Hennessy’s passion is to help people to realise their potential; he has dedicated his life to that enterprise and his work at Setanta College presents him with the opportunity to share what he has learned. Indeed, the third level institution has proven a staggering success. And, Liam Hennessy is determined that his students will graduate in accordance with the very highest of standards.

As a result Setanta College achieves the perfect storm of delivering cutting edge course content and the staff work incredibly hard to expose students to the research of thought leaders while simultaneously preparing graduates for a job in the real world.

“One of the topics that we discussed today was competencies as a strength and conditioner. And, one of my observations has been that, unfortunately, graduates have put a lot of time and effort into their education, but the content may not be preparing them for the real world,” Des Ryan, who is originally from Galway, explained to the Tipperary Star in the Thurles Chamber Enterprise Centre.

“So, when they come for interview with the likes of myself they struggle with the real world content - speed sessions, coaching strength exercises and even something as simple as a warm-up. A lot of theories and principles are being learned in universities around Europe, but that does not prepare them for the real world. So, one of the reasons I like coming here is because the courses that Liam (Hennessy) and Setanta (College) have developed are done by educating through practitioners. And, they are aimed at preparing the conditioner for the real world,” Des Ryan said.


And, according to Des Ryan such course content ensures that the student is prepared to “hit the ground running” in a professional environment. Indeed, Setanta College graduates are more attractive to potential employers as a result.

“Exactly, you can have comfort that they (the graduates) know about speed development, strength development, athletic development, long-term player development, how to screen a player and all of those foundations that are included in a good athletic programme,” Des Ryan added.

“I was enthused by the likes of Johnny O’Connor, who is an ex-rugby player for Connacht and (London) Wasps, because he did the degree with Setanta. He came to do an internship with the Arsenal academy and he got experience under his belt, but he could hit the ground running because he had the competencies from the course. And, now Johnny is working with Connacht Rugby as a strength and conditioner,” Des Ryan told Tipperary Star Sport before adding that, in his opinion, Setanta College, as an institution, is setting itself apart from the competition for this very reason; that Setanta College is making an impact on the global stage because it insists upon preparing students for the practical requirements associated with a role in elite sport.

“Definitely, this masters, for instance, is heavily focused on technology and, again, universities would not educate the students on that. But, for us as practitioners in the real world, new technology is coming at us every week,” Des Ryan explained.

“We would not be experts on it because it is new technology, but Liam (Hennessy) does bring in all the relevant new technology that is available at this moment in time for the students to practice and review. They can then have discussions about how that technology can fit into their practical world. So, again they are ready to hit the ground running and have a good depth and breadth of knowledge.”

Students at Setanta College, of course, benefit from the institution's agile approach - all courses can be accessed online while also featuring blocks of lectures, workshops and hands-on practical experience.

“Yes, Setanta does have very good and practical course content which will help to prepare the practitioner for the real world. And, the courses are delivered by actual practitioners and not delivered by lecturers and people who discuss theories and principles or academics. They have all the academic rigour behind them, but they have also got the practical experience behind them which helps to develop the good practitioner,” the Arsenal academy's head of sports medicine and athletic development added.

Des Ryan - the head of sports medicine and athletic development at Arsenal academy.


The ground-breaking Thurles-based institution has traditionally focused on strength and conditioning. Indeed, Setanta College has developed an entire suite of S&C courses which can help to progress prospective students through a certificate, degree or masters programme.

All course have been developed and are delivered by experts who have practical experience of the field and have up-to-date and hands-on knowledge of the very latest tecnology and research.

Setanta College has also branched out into the area of personal training and launched the college's Diploma in Personal Training (combined with a certitificate in strength and conditioning) last year.

Most recently Dr Liam Hennessy and the team at Setanta College extended their range of expertise into the field of performance science with the ground-breaking Professional Masters in Performance Science - candidates with a primary degree in strength and conditioning, sports science, sports physiotherapy, athletic training or a similar field of study can enroll in this masters programme which aims to produce graduates capable of coaching, planning, managing and implementing the latest in sports technology and methodologies for elite sport.

With the proliferation of sports science and analytics Setanta College's Performance Science programme aims to combine that science with the subtle art of coaching. Graduates from the Professional Masters in Performance Science will be well-placed to examine, review and enhance the performances of teams and individuals. From the sleep quality of athletes to the analytic performance of teams Setanta College has it covered.

The course was launched as recently as 2016, but it already carries significant weight in the international coaching community.


This week Setanta College hosted a workshop in Thurles which forms a significant part of the Professional Masters in Performance Science.

Des Ryan, the head of sports medicine and athletic development at the Arsenal academy, featured among the speakers as did Dave Fagan who runs the sub academy at Leinster Rugby - the Leinster sub academy works to bridge the gap for players between schools and professional rugby. And, Setanta College director Liam Hennessy described Dave Fagan as an “unsung hero of Irish sport” this week. Indeed, during the past ten years the Leinster sub academy has successfully developed 125 professional rugby players while 46 of those have earned international caps.

The workshop also featured contributions from thought leaders like Joe Warne (footwear) and Antonio Robustelli (technology) while the week will come to a conclusion with a masterclass from Loren Landow and Professor Ian Jeffreys.

Loren Landow is an elite speed and agility coach and has trained thousands of athletes. Mr Landow is best known for his work in the National Football League while he has also helped to develop elite athletes in Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Hockey League and the UFC alongside Olympic gold medalists and a world-record holder.

Meanwhile Professor Ian Jeffreys is an internationally-renowned coach, educator and author and is regarded as a world authority in the development of speed, agility and conditioning. Ian Jeffreys is a professor of strength and conditioning at the University of South Wales.

Setanta College will also host a speed and acceleration masterclass, featuring Loren Landow and Professor Ian Jeffreys, in Dublin on Saturday, February 17th.

A real highlight of the week, however, was the back-to-back presentations made by Tipperary's Damien Young and Andrew Morrissey. PhD student Damien Young, who is well-known in hurling circles, discussed the application of GPS (global positioning systems) in team sports while Andew Morrissey outlined the work of the Newry-based STATSports company who are a global market leader in the provision of GPS and player tracking technology for elite sports teams.

Similarly to Setanta College STATSports is an Irish company making an impact on the international stage - two enterprises that the people of Ireland should be very proud of.


If you would like to learn more about Setanta College and the courses on offer at the institution please click here. You can also follow @SetantaCollege on Twitter or like Setantasportscollege on Facebook.


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