Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Sean Young

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sean Young

Still Young At Heart:
With an enthusiasm undimmed by a lifetime's involvement, Sean Young continues to train under-age teams with a passion, dedication, skill and optimism which few could equal. There are few also who could equal his G.A.A. Curriculum Vitae which has stretched through the decades and through three provinces. These are his native Ulster, Leinster and for over thirty years now, here in Boyle. In that time he has tasted the sweetness of victory and the bitterness of defeat, praise and cynicism in their various measures. Yet as he recites from the old Kipling monologue;
"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same
You'll be a man my friend"
Derry Roots
Sean was born in the townland of Ballymaguigan on the shores of Lough Neagh in County Derry. While the occupation of his working life, Bank Official, has brought him to many towns his anchor in life has always been his native place. This is reinforced by his family and the circle of friends which emanated from his boyhood GAA Club St. Treas.
Sean was greatly influenced by his father 'The Master'. He went to the great nursery of Gaelic Games, St. Malachy's in Belfast. His first Bank placement was in Ballinamore, County Leitrim. This was followed by a period in Castlewellan County Down where a playing colleague was the great Down player Pat Rice. In 19 and 55 (as he enunciates it himself) he Captained the Derry Junior team to an All-Ireland title over Mayo at Charlestown. He played in two Ulster Senior Finals in the 50s' and was on two McKenna Cup and a Lagan Cup winning sides.
After a spell in Meath it was back to Ballymaguigan for a great Senior Championship victory in '62 in the company of his great friend, the legendry Derry player Jim McKeever. The well-travelled inter-county manager, Eamon Coleman, was also on the team. Sean had a great football spell with Seam Mac Cumhalls of Ballybofey winning two County Senior Championships and disappointingly losing out on an Ulster Club title. Sean married Anne in 1962 and pays tribute to her patient tolerance of his sporting passion.
Boyle's Abbey Park
The distinctive Derry accent was first heard in Boyle GAA's spiritual home, the Abbey Park, in the summer of '72. He had just been transferred to Boyle as Manager of the then Northern, now National Irish, Bank. He was soon involved, with John McGowan and the Boyle team as a player and trainer as they reached a Junior and two Intermediate County Finals. His talents were quickly noted at County level. On the instigation of Micheal O'Callaghan, then County Board Chairman, he was appointed Coach to the County Senior team in '73. This policy was then in its infancy but about to blossom. He introduced an innovative training regime and a tactical dimension which brought success and laid the foundations for the County's great period of the later seventies.
League Final of 1974.
Future success was not immediately evident in his first game in charge of Roscommon in which they dispatched a lowly Dublin to Division Three. If anyone had suggested that Dublin would win the '74 All-Ireland (beating Galway) and that Roscommon would miss out on a National League title after a replay against Kerry, they might have been shown the way to the local hospital. That avoidable League Final defeat is one of Sean's deep disappointments. John Egan's late Kerry goal, in the drawn game, with the Roscommon goalie injured, is etched in his memory.
Sean speaks glowingly of that Roscommon team of '74 and puts them ahead of the All-Ireland finalists of 1980. The names jump out; Lindsay, Heneghan, Regan, Kerrane, Earley, Kelly and Freyne and always the one he rate best of all, Harry Keegan. Sean was succeeded in late '75 by Tony Whyte. This transition could have been dealt with more diplomatically. The more things change the more they stay the same.

Moulding Youth
Sean did not sulk on the sidelines but took over and moulded a talented Boyle under-age team which included, McLoughlin, Fitpatrick, Nerney, and Sean's own son Liam. In this he was assisted by the writer. Double acts were very popular then, even in coaching! It is said that Sean is at his best in this under-age coaching context. This side had many fine tussles with strong teams such as the Clann na Gael of McManus, Nicholson and Pettit; the Roscommon Gaels side of Hession and McNeill; the Elphin side powered by Kelly and Glancy and Michael Glaveys with their stars Paul Earley, Morgan and Doorey. These Club rivals combined to enable the Roscommon Minor team to reach the All-Ireland Semi-Final where they were beaten by a great Cork side. The Boyle youngsters helped in Sean's next Club success with a county Junior title in '81 followed by a memorable Intermediate victory over St. Ronans in '83 at Frenchpark. That team was; John Finn (ably substituting for Gerry O'Dowd who was away),Gerry Carty, John O'Dowd, Dessie Mcloughlin, Gary Wynne (Capt.), Christopher O'Connor, Peter Bolger, John Finneran, liam Young, Sean Daly, Vincent Flanagan, Kevin Young, Gerry Nerney, Colm Loftus, Paul Beirne, with John Joe Carty and Kevin Mahon.

County Calls Again
It was back to the front lines of inter-county coaching in '86 and another bitter pill. The gods did not smile on Sean's Roscommon in the Connacht Final when a late Stephen Joyce goal 'robbed' Roscommon after an injury to Harry Keegan. A strange below-par performance and the curse of the late goal struck again in '87 in Sligo and heralded the end of Sean's Senior involvement with the County. The margin between the elation of victory and the dejection of defeat can so often be minimal. "Ironically", reflects Sean, "these teams did the business after I had done a good deal of the ground-work!" Since his initial involvement in 1973 he has been involved fifteen years with Roscommon teams at under 16, Minor, U 21, Junior and Senior levels allied to a greater number of years involved at Club level.
Return to the Abbey Park
Still Sean soldiered on with Boyle and in '94, the Intermediate team, with a blistering display, captured a second title, defeating St.Dominicks. The team; J. Conroy, G.Wynne, V. Flanagan, M.McGovern, S. Bohan, G.Cregg, F. Costello, P.Carty, T. Ryan, N. O'Donohoe, M. Smith, E. Cregg, O.O'Donohoe, S. Kerins, M. Tormey, with N. Casey, A. King, D. McLoughlin, J. O'Dowd, R. Nerney, B. Shannon, A. Lavin, B. Kennedy, J. Sweeney, D. Kelly, P.Flaherty, and J. Beirne. This was one of the town's best ever teams with power players in abundance. Boyle returned to Senior status and were still a force there when Sean passed on the reins of management in '98.
A creaking hip kept reminding Sean to take time out which he found difficult to do. Eventually he acquiesced. The creaking was attended to and he returned to various under-age teams in the Club and schools. His new squads having won U 12 and U 16 at Division 2 these are now competing in division 1 at Minor level. He has extended his activity to assisting voluntarily at Boyle Primary Schools.

GAA Friendships
Sean was part of a very active and successful Scor (GAA social programme) in the seventies. Accompanied by P.J. and Maureen Keane, Rosaleen Moran and Una Beirne he participated in the All-Ireland Final of the Ballad group. They did not win out due to flawed adjudication but they were selected for an R.T.E. highlights programme. He is a talented singer whose anthem is, appropriately, 'The Town I Loved So Well'. He regards the GAA as a great organisation despite its top level bureaucracy. He sees friendships in every Club in the County, some formed in the furnace of sideline argument. "Talking to Micheal O'Callaghan was like talking to my own father", he recalls. No finer tribute could he pay. "I must mention Barry and P.J., Ernie, Michael Costello and John McGowan and…" Once a list starts it can take on a momentum of its own.
He admits his passion and regard for so many players he has been involved with through the years; "I'd like to thank all the players (Club and County) whom I have coached and are still friends. Indeed now some of my 'students' are young ladies which is an interesting challenge for an old timer!"

In answer to my query regarding the future he answers with optimism; "Hopefully we'll get a Senior Championship so that the major ambition will be fulfilled. Do you know something, if Ryan's shot had hit the net instead of the crossbar, against Clann , '96 could have been our year. I hope to continue to give ye a wee hand with the under-age. I couldn't be passing the Abbey Park without going in anyhow."
He is proud of his family, wife Anne and children Aileen, Liam, Jody, Sean, Paul and Catherine and now the next generation, his eight grandchildren. Paul is heavily involved in the creative arts as co-founder of 'Cartoon Saloon' based in Kilkenny. Sean retired from the Bank in '97 and was feted at a memorable night, in the then Forest Park Hotel, by the local business community and Boyle GAA Club and uniquely by Mac Cumhals of Ballybofey and Ardagh of Longford.
In the enveloping gloom, of a late evening, in the Abbey Park, in the Spring of 2006, while most of the panting figures are indistinguishable, Sean's distinctive voice marks him out. This voice has echoed across all the Gaelic fields in Roscommon, and many beyond, in exasperation, in disagreement but most often in encouragement.
I, a friend also, marvel at his youthful enthusiasm and reflect on how lucky Boyle GAA Club and its youth has been to have benefited from his spirit, for few, if any, have given as much to its cause.