The first outside man to ever manage St. Eunan’s, Maxi Curran, is giving youth its chance at the famous Letterkenny club.
Curran took the reins at the start of this year and although the side were said to be in transition, he has steered them to the county final.
He laughed when I put it to him that he could be the first Downings man with a senior championship, and pointed to a much-talked about semi-final in the early 1980s when Downings exited at the hands of Kilcar. “There was talk of a dubious discipline issue overturned in favour of Kilcar which still haunts them to this day.”
When asked what the discipline issue was, Maxi laughed and said: “It was before my time!”
The St. Eunan’s manager, who looks youthful enough to be involved on the field, agrees that it has been a strange championship.
“You were sitting with nine months to plan for one team and then you have six days to plan for ever other team. There is a serious imbalance in that respect. It is very hard going. You cannot look too far ahead.
“We played on Saturday night and we’re only getting the DVD tonight, so we have only five days to plan for Glenswilly. For me personally, it’s very like the (Ulster) U-21 competition. I’ve called that competition a sprint, while other competitions are a marathon. This club competition is a sprint and you can’t take the foot off the pedal at any stage.
“You play, you recover, you play, you recover. There is no training as such,” says Curran.
He is well aware of what Glenswilly bring to the table.
“Glenswilly are a team that operate at a level that does not fluctuate above or below five or 10 percent every day. They are reminiscent of the Armagh team of the early 2000s. They rarely blow any team away. They do what they got to do and they know how to do it.
“I wouldn’t read too much into scorelines. We have managed to get over the line. We’ve done enough. We had a bit to spare against Malin, Naomh Muire and Four Masters but it is all relative,” although he agreed it was good to get a tough test from St. Michael’s.
Asked if he had a plan for Michael Murphy, he laughs and says: “We will reveal that at 3 o’clock on Sunday. Look, any team with Michael Murphy, be it at the edge of the square or out the field, form a serious obstacle. He is a magnet for the ball. When he is inside they tend to get the ball in quick to him and when he’s out the field, they tend to build the play with him at the hub of what they are doing, himself and Neil Gallagher,” said Maxi.
“Their style doesn’t change that much. After Sunday, you could look at them a hundred days and nothing changes that much.”
“I know Gary (McDaid) well. He is a very methodical man,” said Maxi, who added that the Glenswilly man would do what it takes to get over the line. “That’s an admirable trait in some ways. He mightn’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but you cannot argue with the success he has had with the team. He’s brought them from a level of having won very little to being a very efficient and successful outfit.
“They are the county champions with two All-Stars in their team and probably the best forward in the country and it will be just a serious task for us,” said Maxi.
“We have a great young side with plenty of youth. Rory Carr was two months old when John Haran played in his first county final. We finished the Naomh Muire game with seven minors, five were on the county panel, but none of them played in the All-Ireland minor final.
“This current group are really finding their way. I think there are ten players that played in the championship of 2012 now gone. That’s a massive turnaround in two years.
Curran says it has been a great year personally. “When the job came up, I would have known a lot of the players. It was probably the enthusiasm of the Rory Kavanaghs and Conall Dunnes that pushed me over the line in going forward for the job. Rory’s performance has really outlined that, the hunger he has to win another medal. He has never been captain before and maybe that has been an extra wee bit of motivation for him. It has been a brilliant journey for me and as coaches, that’s what we’re always trying to do; we are always trying to learn,” said Curran.