Former Carlow senior football coach says he would like to take over from Turlough O’Brien
By Kieran Murphy
Steven Poacher says he would like to be the new manager of the Carlow senior football team.
The Newry man worked as coach for a long period of Turlough O’Brien’s time at the helm and is credited with bringing a more structured defensive mindset to the team.
When Poacher informed O’Brien and the players last November that he would be stepping down as coach with immediate effect he must surely have felt his connection with the county was completely finished.
However, with the vacancy arising. and with the long break because of the Covid crisis, the Down man says he is re-energised and would not rule out the possibility of stepping into intercounty management.
At the moment he is part of the Down minor management team and also coaches senior club side Bryansford in his native county. He has happy memories of his time in Carlow and says he would strongly consider managing the senior football team if he was asked.
“If someone came and asked would I be interested, it is something I would give thought to,” he said. “Obviously there are things to think about but as such no-one has obviously asked me or come and expressed an interest in speaking to me.”
A three-man committee comprising of county board chairman Sean Campion, Eddie Byrne of Mount Leinster Rangers and George Darcy of Bagenalstown Gaels has been given the task of looking for a suitable candidate to fill the post.
“If the powers that be and the selection process were to [ask] would I be interested, then I would give it thought. I know a lot of the players would probably be delighted if I did give it consideration. If it was to come around and it is said to me, then I would give it thought,” Poacher affirmed.
When he left Carlow last November he said personal, business and family reasons had led him to make the decision. Now he says the long break caused by the Covid crisis has given him the space and time to reflect.
“For the first time in 11 years I have had an extended break with no football. My daily occupation (before Covid) in schools was taking on football teams and that went from September to April and May. Club football was from January to October and then there was intercounty football whether it was with the minors here in Down, with development squads and in my years in Carlow.
“Last year when I went down to see Turlough to tell him why I was stepping away, a lot of it was mental fatigue. Not so much physical, but definitely mental.”
He says the recent lockdown has given him a new sense of perspective on life and he has relished the opportunity to draw breath.
“I think the last few months makes you realise you should value your time a bit more. The flip side is that with almost complete rest in March, April, May and June it has reenergised me and given me a chance to take some great ideas going forward. It is a great time for stepping back and reflecting on your own coaching, your style and your own philosophy.
“I have actually networked with more coaches over the last few months than I have ever done. Webinar and Zooms seem to be the new form now. I think it has been a great time for coach training and upskilling. I really do. It has been brilliant.”
He says outgoing manager Turlough O’Brien put his county before himself when deciding to step down.
“Personally, I think it is a very unselfish decision which is testament to the man. He could have hung on and fizzled out towards the end of the year. Someone coming in wouldn’t have had time to prepare. Looking at Carlow, realistically, whoever comes in has to prepare for national league 2021. The league is Carlow’s priority,” he says.
He says he enjoyed his time working with the Carlow players.
“They are a good group of lads and I do believe whoever comes in, there is a possibility of winning Division 4 and getting out of that division. I do believe it is important for the young lads coming through. For the likes of Niall Roche, Ross Dunphy, Josh Moore, Jordan Morrissey, Conor Crowley, Conor Doyle. There are six lads playing football for Carlow who are all in the very early stages of their career. I think it is vitally important those lads experience getting to play at a higher level of football.”
He says he would encourage experienced players such as John Murphy, Darragh Foley, Daniel St Ledger and Sean Gannon to stay involved and help bring the younger lads through.
“For the age profile of the squad it really is a very important appointment. The players that are in there currently, there is probably a couple of more pushes in them, but they are lads getting on the other side of 30 and around that mark. They are not just any lads. They are very important players within that group,” he stressed,
He says he would have no problem returning to the Carlow environment
“My father always said you should leave a job in a position knowing you could go back to it. I don’t think there was any animosity or falling out over the way I moved out in Carlow. In fact, I was humbled by the respect from the players, the supporters and Turlough himself. My own relationship with the county board would have been very good at the time. Sean Campion and those guys were more than good to me. I have no complaints,” he said.
And how does he see the rest of the year panning out? Should there even be a championship at all? Funnily enough, for a man who was part of a management team which imposed rigid structures which came in for a lot of criticism, it is interesting to hear him say players must now be allowed to express themselves more than ever.
“I think some form of football is important. Not even so much from a physical side of things but from a mental health perspective. I think it is important to see some form of championship, whether it is knock-out or back door. Whatever we do get, people should be really happy about it.
“I am delighted, but teams who are back pushing lads, training lads, putting them on strength and conditioning programmes and drink bans; they should forget about everything for 2020. If we get football, just let the lads play. Let them play and enjoy their bloody football. Forget about GPS equipment and let us all enjoy playing football. We have come through one of the most unprecedented times. I think we have to let lads and ladies go and let them play football and enjoy it.”