Connor brings more than soccer background

Connor brings more than soccer background
Killybegs coach Sean Connor is better known for his soccer background, having managed several well known soccer clubs.

Killybegs coach Sean Connor is better known for his soccer background, having managed several well known soccer clubs.

But for some time now he has been coaching and training in Fintra and this year has been an ever present on the line.

Not many people would know that he has a good GAA background, having won a MacRory Colleges medal and also an Antrim senior championship medal.

He says he has really enjoyed the recent return to GAA work with Killybegs.

“It has been enjoyable. I love working with players and when you’re getting ready for a big day, that makes it better. I played Gaelic myself and I won a MacRory Cup medal in 1986 with St. Mary’s CBS and an Antrim senior championship medal the same year with St. John’s,” said Sean.

Winning the MacRory was a big achievement for St. Mary’s as it was only their second ever Ulster Colleges titles (they had previously won in 1971) and in the final they defeated the heavily fancied St. Pat’s, Maghera, coached by Adrian McGuckian by 1-8 to 0-6. Among his teammates on the day were Conal Heatley, Liam Donnelly, Enda McGurk, Paddy Weir.

“Seamus Downey was playing for Maghera,” said Sean.

But while he was involved in soccer management for many years including Sligo Rovers and Bohemians, he is now making his mark in Killybegs.

“I’ve been living in the area for around five years. I first got involved around 2007 with them when Peter McGinley and Manus Boyle came and asked me do some training with them,” said Sean, speaking to the Democrat at the Press Night ahead of the county final.

“I’ve worked with them on and off since, but I’ve been with them this year since around March.

“Martin Boyle is a good manager. I came in and worked with the fitness of the boys. They are a good bunch of lads. He is a very astute manager. He’s got great belief in his players and he’s got a great understanding of the players and knows what makes them all tick. There is a unique bond between him and the players and it’s very obvious to see that there is a mutual respect.

“He has a great way of speaking to the lads before big games and I’ve seen myself at times, after he has been speaking, you want to put your boots on and go out and play for him.”

Asked about the impact young Hugh McFadden has had this year, he said: “To be honest we never really rushed him in there. We let him make his own decision. I think his talent was obvious to everyone but I think Hugh needed to decide himself whether he wanted to be a Gaelic player or a soccer player.

“To me it’s quite evident where his strength lies. He is a great young man. To me, as a coach, he wants to work hard; he wants to learn.

“He’s got his whole career in front of him. It’s good for Donegal football to have a young fellow like that coming through.

“If he gets the luck and the few breaks that you need; but if he applies himself the way I’ve seen him apply himself, there is no reason why he can’t be involved in a very successful Donegal team going forward,” said Sean.

“He’s got that arrogance of youth, but he’s also got great talent and he believes in that talent and I think that is very important that he maintains that,” said Sean, who agrees that there is an in built confidence in all Killybegs players.

“They were brought up with the backbone of the last Donegal team to win the All-Ireland. When you have those sort of people to look at and admire when you’re growing up, it certainly breeds a confidence and almost an expectation for the programme.

“There is no one we would fear. We would certainly respect all the other opposition. We analyse them, but we also know the strengths and weaknesses of our own team is, which I think is very, very important.

“I have only been involved for five years, but when you look at it, they are steeped in history in Killybegs,” said Sean.