Sunday 21 January 2018

New regime to build backroom team piece by piece

McGurn tipped for fitness role in restructured set-up, writes Marie Crowe

Marie Crowe

Marie Crowe

Within hours of Martin O'Neill being confirmed as new Ireland manager last week, Mike McGurn's name was being linked to the position of fitness coach. He's graced the sports pages of newspapers around the country and some of his former charges have publicly endorsed what he does.

But yesterday at O'Neill's first press conference in the Gibson Hotel in Dublin the new boss revealed that he hasn't finalised McGurn's position or his backroom set-up yet.

"I'm going to have a look at it," said O'Neill. "It's all very tight at the moment. I wanted the two games. After it's over in Poland, I will sit down with John [Delaney] and look to see who I'll be bringing in. I'll have a look to see what we have. I've heard, from all sorts of reports, there's a really decent camaraderie."

However it is believed that in the last couple of weeks McGurn has been to Abbotstown and met the FAI's performance director Ruud Doktor. It was an informal chat, where they discussed who McGurn has worked with during his career as one of the country's leading strength and conditioning coaches.

McGurn's cv is an impressive one; he's worked with the national rugby team under Eddie O'Sullivan, the Irish international rules team as well as several GAA teams and individual athletes.

He specialises in implementing strength and conditioning plans and is tipped to do the same for Irish football. McGurn is currently living in Belfast and working in Queen's University and also with the Louth Gaelic football team. Being within commuting distance of the Ireland training base at Portmarnock is said to be an added attraction for the FAI. Although O'Neill and McGurn have never worked together they have several mutual acquaintances. Anthony Tohill, who was manager of Ireland's international rules team in 2010 and brought O'Neill in for a team talk, is a friend of both men.

Indeed when McGurn first ventured into football in a role with Hull City, John McGovern – a former team-mate of O'Neill – was the manager.

Also, O'Neill's former team-mate with Northern Ireland, John Cleary, is an uncle of McGurn's wife.

However, O'Neill is focused on Friday's match against Latvia and then next week's game against Poland. For now he won't be dividing up the different roles in his set-up even with his assistant manager Roy Keane.

"Just at this minute, because we want to get things together, I will take the coaching," said O'Neill yesterday.

"That is not a major problem. It's really to do with set-pieces, how to defend them, how to create something from them. We need just a little bit of camaraderie as much as anything."

Sunday Independent

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