incoming Kildare manager Glenn Ryan
It was a wet blustery Friday evening last week and the future manger of Kildare senior footballers was, not unusually, at a game in his home club; an U16 game, in which he was umpiring.
With all the wet gear on he failed to hear a very important mobile call.
Finally one of his fellow umpires, and a fellow club man, received a call, it was from Co Chairman, Mick Gorman, enquiring did he know where Glenn Ryan was.
“I do” replied Pauric Gill “he's standing at the other goalpost opposite me.”
And so Glenn Ryan was informed that he was to become the next manager of Kildare senior footballers.
It has been a long time coming.
The mind rambles, rambles all the way back to 2008.
All-Ireland U21 final day.
The venue was Semple Stadium and in action was Kildare and Kerry.
Managed by Glenn Ryan, and after being crowned Leinster champions a few weeks earlier they were a mere 60 minutes from winning an All-Ireland title.
It was not to be however as The boys from The Kingdom prevailed.
We exited Semple Stadium that Saturday evening, disappointed, down and dejected, yet still felt maybe the good days are not too far away.
Not the first time we have talked like that but this, after all, is Kildare we are talking about.
The general consensus on the long journey home being that one day Glenn Ryan would take charge of the senior footballers.
From that day to this the man regarded as one of the great centre backs of modern times has not entered a Kildare dressing room.
Now finally after no less than 13 years (14 years before the action actually gets under way in 2022) Kildare's most famous son has finally landed the job of managing The Lilies.
A lot has been said and written in recent times on why it has taken so long but Glenn was anxious to park that particular bus and move on “water under the bridge” being his only comment on that.
Have to say at this stage I have attended first day gatherings of more managers of Kildare senior footballers than I care to remember, but this was some what different.
Can't really put my finger on it, but it was different.
It was certainly more relaxed; certainly no bull shit; certainly no gung ho.
Cool, calm and collected is probably an accurate description of Glenn on the day.
But then we were chatting here to a man we have known since his football days, a man that knows the scene.
Chatting to a man who knows club football in Kildare from underage right up to senior level.
Chatting to a man who has seen the good days wearing the white and the not-so-good days.
Yet the Towers man readily admits that during his playing career with Kildare, and despite winning two Leinster titles and reaching the All-Ireland final of 1998, that team as a whole “under-achieved.”
I often think and wonder why, he says, “ but then I think that reflecting on the negatives won't help us in the future; if there is a monkey on our back, keep referring back to it is only going to make it into an ape; so different than '98 or no different than any of the years we haven't managed to live up to expectations.”
He was though, anxious, very anxious in fact, to move away from those times, anxious to look forward and while not air brushing his playing days by any means, he was anxious to turn the conversation to the future and to the players of 2022 and beyond.
Glenn reminds us that in '98 we were 30 years away from the centenary of 1928 (the last time Kildare won an All-Ireland) now it's only six years away from that very same centenary and we haven't moved on any further.
“It's coming around and it's coming around quickly but its not a centenary any of us want to be celebrating without having ended that drought and if I can do some work and even pass it on to someone else who comes behind me to get us over the line between now and then we will all be very happy.”
Now we have to try and set our own bar that we can consistently hit and ensure that we can be at a high level and bring more consistency in attaining that.
So what is Glenn's view on the talent within the county and the club scene in particular where it all comes from?
“Club football in Kildare is as good, and even more importantly, is as well run as any county around.
“The fixtures and the way games are run in the county are second to none” and while emphasising that he did not want that to sound like he was sucking up to the county board, insists, it is a fact.
The facilities throughout the county are as good as what you get anywhere; the enthusiasm and the love of football within the county from under age all the way up to senior is unreal.
But, he adds, “it is though like that in most counties; when I was in Longford the enthusiasm there was second to none and hugely passionate, just like here.”
Glenn admits that he felt this year's club fixtures were “the most convoluted thing I had ever seen but turned out to be as good a championship as you could have hoped for” adding “if anything there was nearly too much football, but when you are saying that you know there really can't be too much wrong.”
Gradually getting around the what lies ahead, Glenn said that he more or less has his backroom team put together “there are a few people that just have to let others know, but yes, mostly I have it all together.
With no collective training allowed until mid-December it gives Ryan little time to get a new squad in place, but as he said himself “we are fortunate that we have a lot of games to go to now over the next number of weeks; we were at games last weekend and will be at more this weekend and beyond.
“Fortunately we will get to see plenty of football; we will be holding trails; players will be invited to come in; we will be trying to, not necessarily finalise the panel, but to get a crew together that we can start working on fairly quickly, there will of course be additions and subtractions during that period; we want to try and get a group together as quick as we can start to mould together.”
Asked about style of play he would like to see from The Lilies, Glenn smiles and says “we would all love to see beautiful free-flowing football but we have to see what we have first; the most important thing of all is to get the best out of each player; you can talk of one system, or another system or changing different things but what you want on any given day, regardless of what system you are playing, and that there is a level of expectancy from the players.”
While reminded that inconsistency is something that has dogged Kildare over the years he immediately replies that the “one thing about inconsistency is that you are never too bad and you are never too good; but you don't what to be consistently bad, but as for Kildare's inconsistency down the years, I can't say I will solve that over night but it is something we will certainly be working to do.”
Glenn admits that playing in Division 1 will be so different from saying starting out in Division 3,
“Playing in a lower division you might carry more players to give them chances but when you are in Division 1 we will probably focus on trying to get what we think, initially anyway, would be the best panel to put together and work on creating something among that smaller group; if you were in Division 3 you could expand, you would get the opportunity to give more fellas a run but for now we are thrown in at the deep end but that can be an advantage; it will certainly focus the management; it will focus the players and it might just give us a direction very early on rather than trying to find one after a number of months or a year; we will have to get bedded in fairly quickly.”
At the end of the day it is about winning matches and these days there is very little, or no sympathy around (and there shouldn't be) because if you are up in Division 1, you have earned it to be up there and the main thing is to stay up there; we have to go with the right frame of mind that staying in Division 1 is vitally important.
Asked about the format that will see the All-Ireland senior finals played before the end of July, Glenn says, he can understand the reasoning behind the decision but admits that September was always All-Ireland final month and it will take a bit of getting used to while admitting it will give the clubs more time to play and plan their season.
On his management team Glenn says his intention would be for each of his selectors/ coaches to take on various roles; Johnny (Doyle) for instance has an expertise that he will be taking a lead on; as does Dermot (Earley) and Anthony (Rainbow); my job will be to co-ordinate things so that they can do their job to the best of their ability, quickly adding, “I will have an input myself , I won't be sitting up in the stand looking at these fells.
“We know one another, I am there as the manager, a figure-head; the great thing about the lads is they recognise the contribution they can make without consulting anybody and the best selectors that I have worked with down the years are people who are very opinionated, strong in the belief in that they want to get across and understand why they want to get it across but when you make that decision, that is it, you move on to the next discussion; no bravado, if a selector puts something forward that works out, or indeed gets it wrong, we move on, learn and move e forward.”
This is not going to be about the management; we are looking forward to getting the panel together; people can than start focussing on the players, it is the players that people should be focusing on, and hopefully in the very short time that will happen; at the end of the day it is all about the players not about the management.
2022 will be a huge year for Kildare, for Glenn Ryan, his management team, and all the players. Playing in Division 1 of the League, a league that will see the best teams in the country either coming to Newbridge or The Lilies visiting them.
There was a time St Conleth's Park was a fortress and if Kildare are to survive mixing it with the big boys that will have to happen again.
No doubt the opening game, regardless of who it is against, will be a full house but Glenn Ryan wants to see Newbridge rocking and it is something we all want to see and hear “but not just rocking from the point of view of the opposition and getting excited about the opposition, but in fact getting excited with our own players, that is what we want to see, supporters coming to see Kildare players regardless of who they are playing.”
So how does it feel to be the new manager of Kildare?
“I am delighted; I am thrilled, it is a huge honour for me, for my family and for my club” adds a very happy, very relaxed manager who can't wait to get everything up and running.
Bring it on!
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