PAUL Hasson is embarking on an entirely novel challenge this year.
The Ballinascreen man has had two stints as manager of the Derry ladies in recent seasons, leading the team to an All-Ireland Junior Championship final in 2017.
He announced his resignation after they were knocked out of last year’s All-Ireland Championship, even though they had a forthcoming Ulster Junior Championship final against Fermanagh yet to play.
Hasson correctly predicted that the match wouldn’t go ahead due to Covid-19 restrictions, and he’s now taking on a new role at Fermanagh club St Pat’s, Donagh.
Obviously, his contact time has been limited during the current lockdown, but he likes what he sees so far.
“I met up with the club a few times before Christmas and I liked the way the committee were going about things.
“The work they’re doing behind the scenes, and their plans for further down the line, appealed to me so I’m excited about the challenge.
“It was more or less the time I decided to step away from Derry. I didn’t want it announced until my resignation was official, and then I met the players.
“I sort of read between the lines that the Ulster final wouldn’t be played. Fermanagh were going well in the All-Ireland series and we weren’t permitted to train as we’d been knocked out. I knew the Ulster final wasn’t going to go ahead to be honest with you.”
St Pat’s finished a somewhat disappointing fourth in Division Two last year. They’d have been hoping to achieve promotion, so it was a frustrating outcome. On a more positive note, they have plenty of talented young players coming through the ranks and there’s been a great buzz around the club in recent times as they’ve developed and improved their facilities, including a new 348-seater stand.
Former club manager Ogie Cadden is part of the set-up this year, while Hasson has also brought in Kildress man Derek McGarrity.
Hasson said: “Everyone’s in the same boat at the moment so we’re just trying to keep the thing together. They seem to have a very good young squad and have been doing well at underage level.
“I lived in Enniskillen for a while around 2002 and 2003, I managed Dunnes Stores in Enniskillen and I did a pre-season with the Gaels while I was part of the Derry county squad.
“At that time, Donagh were renowned for being a senior team so they’ve a good bit of pedigree. In saying that they do have a very young squad at the minute.”
It’s still up in the air whether it’ll be club or county first this year, and that makes preparations difficult. Hasson wonders whether the Irish Government moved too quickly in removing the ‘elite’ classification that applied to the GAA last year.
“We have individual programmes for the players but they’re not doing too much as it’s hard to gauge when things will start up.
“If the intercounty game comes back, will county players missing club football because of county commitments?
“It’s going to be a hard thing to marry together, especially when there’s no confirmed dates.
“I think the government took a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, especially when you see soccer teams in the north classified as elite and that’s no disrespect. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”