St Eunan’s investing in the future

By Michael McMullan

ST EUNAN’S, Letterkenny’s appointment of former championship winner Eddie Brennan as their Games Promotion Officer is an investment in the future insists chairman John Haran.

Brennan is taking a career break from teaching after expressing an interest and stepping into the role. He will oversee all things underage, something Haran feels the club “needed to get” in place with senior success as the long-term goal.

“I just felt we were struggling a bit at underage over the last few years and we have gone back a bit,” said Haran.

“It’s to keep an eye on the coaching, the recruitment and going around the schools.”

He highlights their minors playing B football two seasons ago, with only three u-17s still playing and bowing out to Malin proving to be a sounding of the alarm bells.

“If you let it continue, then before you know it, you go through a famine again and you’re not winning senior championships,” Haran added.

Brennan’s remit will include development of coaching all codes, boys and girls.

Milford have a similar scheme in place in a vibrant soccer heartland. In Derry, Sleacht Néill have appointed Derry star Chrissy McKaigue as their GPO, following on from Dungiven.

Haran touched base with Roscommon giants Clann na nGael on how they tapped into the sprawling population of Athlone and he uses Dublin’s approach as the overall proof of how the GPO model can lay foundations.

Reference was also made to how current underage kingpins Four Masters came to St Eunan’s a decade ago for pointers before getting their systems in place that delivered every Donegal ‘A’ underage title last season.

“We needed someone to oversee all of our underage and I think it is too big of a job for one person voluntarily,” Haran added, referring to the imprint Jim Clarke made on the St Eunan’s underage system.

St Eunan’s have “seven or eight” sizeable national schools in a catchment area Letterkenny Gaels have access too. Termon and Glenswilly are also eating into the pie. Haran is aware of the competition.

“If you don’t keep an eye on what you have, you could start losing youngsters to other clubs,” he said.

“It is a battle all the time and although we are the biggest club in Donegal, we have to keep an eye on what we have or you can slip away.

“It is all about participation and telling the children of the town they are welcome at O’Donnell Park. Gaelic games is very cheap for parents compared to other sports in the town. It’s about exercise and mental health, so we have to promote Gaelic games.”

When Brennan kicks into gear in September, his remit will be to coach across all the schools and build links back to the club. The role will also link in with St Eunan’s College at second level.

At present, the post is fully funded by the club and Haran is hoping Donegal GAA can lend a hand, like the part funding models his research flagged up in Connacht and Leinster.

“It is putting a financial strain on the club but it is something we need to do, so sometimes you have to take the hit,” Haran added.

“It could be money we could spend somewhere else but if there are no football teams on the pitch, there is no point in having anything else.

“Eddie will be able to identify where we are weak, where our strengths are, where we can improve, looking at the retention of players and where they are dropping off,” he added.

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