Owen Heary backing Pat Fenlon to rewrite League's record books
Owen Heary believes Pat Fenlon's arrival at Shamrock Rovers will result in his mentor entering the League of Ireland record books.
Appointed as Trevor Croly's successor yesterday morning, Fenlon arrives in Tallaght with a bullet-proof managerial reputation, having collected five league titles from his time in charge of Shelbourne and Bohemians, leaving him two shy of the target set by Jim McLaughlin in the 1970s and 1980s.
And Heary, Fenlon's captain in each of the championship-winning years, reckons McLaughlin's status as the League of Ireland's most successful manager is in danger of being wiped out. "We are looking at a young man in managerial terms," said Heary. "He is in his mid 40s, so he has the time to beat Jim's record. And I have no doubt he will. Having worked with him closely for nearly a decade, I got to know the man as well as the manager. He is a winner, a motivator, a man who has an eye for a type of player who will win you a league.
"He keeps up with modern trends but has old-school values. He isn't into breaking training sessions up and creating scenarios to teach players a point or two.
"Instead, he teaches players how to get the right mentality, demands they reach a high level of fitness and provides simple, meaningful instructions. Then, in addition, he provides thorough details on the opposition. I never entered a match when I was a player under Pat without being properly briefed. He is, without question, the best manager the League of Ireland has had for a long time and it is great to see him back.
"Irish football needs its most talented people working in the game here. He will improve players and improve Shamrock Rovers. They have got a good man."
Fenlon has been out of work since last November, when he parted company with Scottish side, Hibernian, who he was relatively successful with, leading them to two successive Scottish Cup finals.
That experience, coupled with the pressure of chasing titles and Champions League glory with Shelbourne and Bohemians has, Heary believes, provided Fenlon with the wherewithal to cope with the demands of managing Rovers.
"He will easily deal with their high expectations," said Heary. "He has the presence and the confidence. And he will know nothing is handed out to you in this league. Success stems from hard work. He'll put a squad together who'll challenge for honours."
The squad he has inherited was performing well this year until the wheels came off last month, when a run of three league defeats in four games led to Croly's departure. Yet Fenlon inherits a side who are fourth in the table, in a League Cup final and also in the last 16 of the FAI Cup.
"There is no doubt the team is in a good position," Fenlon said yesterday. "We'll be looking to push on and build from that.
" I am familiar with them, having seen them numerous times this season, so we will get to work straight away. We'll be looking to start on a positive note against Derry this Friday."
Rovers chairman, Jonathan Roche, added: "We had to move quickly to give ourselves every chance of qualifying for Europe. And Pat was the right man for the job so there was no need for delay. He has considerable experience at this level and comes into a club that is building good football structures.
"The last couple of weeks has been disappointing but we need to move on and need everyone to stay together and battle for every point."