Brian Carson: 'Our primary goal was to get back to the weekend'
By Cian O'Connell
Sport has always occupied a central role in UL, but their relevance in the Independent.ie Sigerson Cup is increasing recently.
The Fitzgibbon Cup features high on the priority list, but UL are now beginning to earn significant respect under an emerging coach, Brian Carson.
This year will represent UL’s second successive appearance at the Finals weekend – an important feat for the Limerick outfit, who eked out a fine Quarter Final win over DIT.
Carson, who worked with the Limerick senior footballers for two years while John Brudair was in charge, spearheads a talented management team including Diarmuid Mullins (Laois), Fergal O’Brien (Kerry) and Ger Quinlan (Care).
Returning to the last four was UL’s main objective. “We would have made no secret about it with the players at the beginning of the year - our primary goal at the beginning of the year was to get back to the weekend,” UL manager Brian Carson admits. “That was the primary goal last year, but when we got there we didn't perform and it really stung.
“We are still stinging from that loss in the semi-final last year because we didn't feel like we gave a good account of ourselves at all. We felt we were better than that. We got a fair beating from UCD on the day.
“Obviously they are a very talented team, but we didn't feel we gave the best of ourselves. When we were coming back we were just trying to show that we aren't a flash in the pan in UL, that we have good footballers to get back to the weekend. That has been the focus since the beginning of the year.”
"We can get teams together, we can be organised and we can actually push on to compete with the strong and traditional teams in Sigerson football."
What offers Carson hope and encouragement, though, is the fact that UL are generating belief and young footballers in the University are responding. “We have been trying to change the tradition of football in UL,” Carson says.
“Often there has been serious talent available within the college, but players wouldn't always come out for the college team. I don't know whether the perception was that it wasn't taken too seriously. That wouldn't have been the case with the Fitzgibbon hurlers for example. What we are trying to do is trying to build a tradition, trying to show that we have a strong football base in UL.
“We can get teams together, we can be organised and we can actually push on to compete with the strong and traditional teams in Sigerson football. Getting to the weekend two years in a row gives us credibility.”
An Exercise Physiology lecturer at UL, Carson first became involved when former Kerry custodian and current Roscommon goalkeeping coach, Declan O'Keeffe, was manager. “I'm really enjoying it,” Carson remarks. “I was fortunate that when I arrived at UL in 2011, I was taken in by Declan O'Keefe and I did a bit of coaching with the Sigerson squad for two years.
“Then I was fortunate to get an opportunity with John Brudair with Limerick, I spent two years with the Limerick seniors. His philosophy was to back young coaches who were engaging and that was an excellent opportunity for me.
"Probably not too many inter-county managers would have taken a punt on a guy with fairly limited coaching experience. Obviously I was coming from a Sports Science background so I was bringing something Sports Science support to things as well, but he took a chance on me which helped my development.
"At the moment we are getting huge numbers out, guys really want to play for the college and the evidence is there as our Intermediate team have also progressed to the Semi-Finals."
“Then the opportunity came up to take over the team, Deirdre Murphy, the GAA Officer inside in UL, she met me on several occasions. I thought about it long and hard, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up to work with this level of player and to develop myself as a manager and a coach.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed the last two years, it has been very refreshing. I love the momentum that Sigerson brings. I love the week to week action and the condensed season, I really think it is a great competition, played in a great atmosphere.”
Something is stirring in UL with Carson hugely encouraged by how the Intermediate Footballers have also stitched a winning sequence together too. “At the moment we are getting huge numbers out, guys really want to play for the college and the evidence is there as our Intermediate team have also progressed to the Semi-Finals.”
Significant steps are being taken by UL, who will hit the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence intent on making an impact against holders UCD.