Sunday 25 June 2017

Manager Guckian and backroom men inspired by '94 win

John O'Mahony is now part of the Leitrim backroom staff Photo: Sportsfile
John O'Mahony is now part of the Leitrim backroom staff Photo: Sportsfile
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Faith can move mountains says the Bible, but when it comes to hauling a GAA team out of the basement tier of Gaelic football, the authors should have added "… but don't forget to bring a shovel."

In other words, hard work, and plenty of it is required with an eye to the long rather than the shorter term, and that certainly applies to Leitrim where new manager Brendan Guckian has gathered a focused and experienced backroom team around him.

John O'Mahony, the man who led Leitrim to Connacht glory in 1994, joined the ticket as an advisor/selector, while former Leitrim All-Star Seamus Quinn is a selector.

Michael Moyles, ex-Mayo footballer and a Crossmolina All-Ireland club winner, is the team trainer, and Thomas Quinn trains the Dublin-based players.

All change, then, for a county which last year finished seventh in Division 4 of the Allianz Football League and got turned over in the Connacht Championship by Roscommon.

This was followed by a welcome victory over Waterford in the qualifiers before Sligo ended their championship campaign for 2016.

The presence of O'Mahony, who guided Leitrim to only their second provincial victory and who won two senior All-Ireland titles with Galway, underpins the ambition of Guckian to drive forward with the county.

From O'Mahony's perspective, personal friendship, his happy memories of the summer of '94 with Leitrim, and a desire to see the gap close between the strong counties and the lesser lights persuaded him to join the camp.

"How it came about was Benny Guckian and Seamus Quinn were both on the '94 team that won the Connacht final and I've been good friends with them since. They asked me to go in as an advisor or helper with them, and that's what I'm doing," said O'Mahony.

The former Fine Gael TD, who is now a Senator, accepts that a challenging work ethic is required of the Leitrim management and players, but believes that hard-nosed reality must also be backed by a sense of ambition at all levels of the county's GAA structure.

"We wouldn't want to overplay it. The reality is that Leitrim are in a completely different place compared to when I took over back in 1993 in the sense that at that stage they were challenging other counties.

"They were coming within a point or two of Roscommon, and the team was coming into maturity.

"At present the team is in Division 4, but having said all that, everyone has to dream in some way.

"If you don't dream and have hope, then where do you go?"

A first outing of 2017 in the FBD League resulted in a 5-20 to 2-10 victory over GMIT.

different

Next up are Galway in Ballinamore on Sunday, and O'Mahony certainly isn't shouting the odds after one game.

"Galway are in Division 2 and they're Connacht champions so the gap is quite wide and it's a contest in which the bar will be raised from last week.

"GMIT were weaker than we expected. I'm not sure whether or not they had a full squad, but Galway will be a different kettle of fish.

"At the same time, these are the challenges you have to face and it should be a good learning curve for Leitrim.

"The lads are looking forward to it and they'll give everything they can," said O'Mahony.

The Leitrim County Board, with help from the Supporters' Club in Dublin, are embarking on a coaching development plan to raise standards and employ more coaches.

O'Mahony believes this background work will be important to the future of Leitrim GAA.

"Two things have to happen - one, they have to help themselves a little bit, and Leitrim are doing that with the efforts they are making and the proposals on the coaching side of things.

"And second, they need help, effectively. They need help from the GAA itself as well and I would hope at some stage that would be forthcoming because it's important.

"It's absolutely crucial that the weaker teams don't get detached from the main body, that they have some hope of achieving some success," he said.

Irish Independent

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