Niall Ronan comes with the full package – a former professional athlete who specialises in strength and conditioning along with having a sharp desire for coaching. And O Raghallaighs are reaping the reward having shot into Division 2 promotion contention.
His appointment by the North Road outfit was incidental and stemmed from a chat with clubman and work colleague Pádraig Smith in January about how the 2011 intermediate champions were yet to appoint a manager for the present term.
There followed a conversation with Smith, Pat Rice and Andrew Rogan – the rest of the coaching team – and a rapport was struck.
The 39-year-old is, of course, a four-time Irish senior rugby international having played for Leinster and Munster over a decade, before retiring and returning to Gaelic games with St Colmcille’s, reach an All-Ireland intermediate club final.
A level four rugby coach, the Meath native completed his award one course with the GAA and had been involved on the S&C side of things within Andy McEntee’s Royals’ set-up.Ultimately, O Raghallaighs are benefitting from all this acumen.
"I’ve a passion for coaching,” Ronan said.
"But my knowledge of the players in O Raghallaighs was zero and of the clubs was also zero at the start. Though Rogie was a player up until last year so he knew every player, team and ref, and Pat and Pádraig would have been at every single game O Raghallaighs played over the last five or six years. They gave me the inside line.
"I specialise in the coaching with Pat – we work very well together, putting in the systems of play and working on the different elements, while throwing in my S&C experience in on top of it.
"I’ve enjoyed every bit of it so far. There’s lots of great players in Louth football, at intermediate. We’ve been playing in a lot of games where we won on the day or they did – tight games. No game do you just rock up and easily win by 10 points.
“I think that makes you a better team because you have to be up for every game and use your squad because there’s lots of games – which I do think is a good thing – and post-Covid, everybody has been going on holidays too.”
The fundamentals of coaching, he insists, are the same across all sports, though with Gaelic football far less set-piece orientated, it is, according to Ronan, a slightly simpler game to coach compared with rugby.
That's not to say the pressure isn’t as acute at a grade in which there is little between the competitors.
"You have to be up for every single game, your mindset and tactical side of it, are huge priorities in the league but also more importantly coming into championship. You can’t slip up.
"The league is not taken as seriously in Meath – the championship is the priority and that’s how it’s been historically. In Louth, it’s way more competitive and if O Raghallaighs do go up this year, you’re playing against top teams next year and that’s going to be great progress.
“There are lots of competitive games every week and you’re always playing for something – I love the top six idea – going into championship. There are definitely rewards for taking your league seriously and then preparing for championship.”