Wednesday 29 January 2020

Whelahan aims to restore 'self-belief'

Brian Whelehan
Brian Whelehan

In the summer of 1989, Brian Whelahan was a minor hurler who made a surprise senior debut in Offaly's shock All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Antrim.

More than 24 years later, the two-time Hurler of the Year has gone from being a candidate to take charge of the county's minor team to being named as senior manager in the space of a few weeks.

"I had planned to get involved in some capacity during the summer and after it became known that John (Leahy) was not going to go forward for a third term as minor hurling manager, I was approached and began putting a plan together for that role," he said.

"I had a lot of the work done when Padraig Boland sounded me out about the senior job and I had to consider it.

"I spoke with my family, who were very supportive, as always. Mary (his wife) really helped me to make up my mind when she said that I might never get this chance again."

Fresh from the announcement late on Wednesday night, Whelahan (above) is looking forward to the challenge and has already set about putting his back-room team in place.

"I am delighted and excited to be given this opportunity. Obviously when you finish playing, the next step is coaching and managing teams.

"It has always been an ambition to come back and manage Offaly, and to be given that opportunity now... I am thrilled."

Changing the mindset of the Offaly players will be one of the new manager's main priorities .

"For the last few years we've been well able to compete with teams for 45 or 50 minutes but when it comes to the last quarter, for whatever reason, we've fallen short.

"I want to change that and and I'll be putting my back-room team in place with that in mind. I want people who have real determination, who can communicate with players and who can help them to display the kind of self-belief that has been missing from Offaly hurling for the last 10 or 12 years."

Whelahan, who has had spells managing Camross in Laois and Kiltormer in Galway, is relishing the challenge.

"I'm confident in my ability to do the job well. The support structures and management team that will be put in place will play a big role," he said.

Whelahan had an outstanding career as a player, and is arguably Offaly's greatest hurler, with two All-Ireland senior medals, two at minor level and four All Star awards, as well as four All-Ireland club titles and 12 county championship successes with his beloved Birr.

Having had so much success with Birr, Whelahan, who was the only modern-day hurler to be selected on the Team of the Millennium, draws positives from the exploits of both Coolderry and Kilcormac/Killoughey, who won Leinster club titles in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

"I think there are great hurlers in Offaly – the success of Coolderry and Kilcormac-Killoughey in recent years proves that. I want to get the county team to push on and to share that belief," he stressed.

"One of my first tasks will be to talk to the players, including those with long-term injuries like David Kenny and Shane Dooley. I will also be meeting players who weren't available for one reason or another with a view to getting them on board in the best interests of Offaly hurling."

Whelahan will follow in his father's footsteps once his appointment is ratified – Pat Joe Whelahan took charge of the Faithful County back in 1989.

Irish Independent

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