Eddie Brennan enjoying managerial role
By Cian O’Connell
Eddie Brennan could have opted for an easier life. Eight All Ireland titles, 11 Leinster medals, five Allianz Leagues, and four All Stars were accumulated during a decorated playing career.
When Brennan’s days in the striped jersey finished he started to earn praise and plaudits for his punditry, but managing a team was always something that interested him.
The Kilkenny Under 21 job became available; Brennan accepted the role. “It was something I didn't give much time to think about because I had offers on the table, club offers and I just said no,” Brennan says.
“I was doing what I was doing, I was busy, a young family at home. It was almost I only got two or three days to think about it, maybe if I'd thought about it a little bit more, maybe I mightn't have got involved.
“It's like anything gut instinct doesn't lead you too far astray when you're deciding them things. As regards being an inter-county manager I suppose, you do look at it there and think about it, will I or won't I.
“Maybe the timing is right or whatever. I'm enjoying what I'm doing and still trying to play a little bit of club hurling. I would have said yeah maybe a little bit down line.
“But like anything I don't believe in looking too far down the line, you deal with what's there in the present. When the offer came it was hard to say no to it. It's a chance to work with your own lads and work with your own county, especially when we hadn't been going well. There's scope there to make it work.”
Brennan’s first year in charge included a shock Bord Gais Energy Under 21 loss to Westmeath. Valuable lessons have been learned during the past 18 months.
“Yeah, definitely and I certainly don't know it all yet,” Brennan admits. “Every day you're going playing matches, you're learning something new. You're evolving and if you're narrow minded enough to think we've had a good year now, we've cracked it, that's the rock you'll perish on.
“Every team we've played this year, we've played a couple of inter-county senior teams in challenge matches and it just makes you come back out of it with food for thought all the time.
“That has for me been the beauty of it. It helps you get an appreciation for what inter-county managers go through and the level of work and attention to detail that you have to do.
“It just incorporates a huge amount of stuff. It is a full time job because you're always on the phone talking, organising things.
“So I'd like to think we've learned a nice bit in the last 18 months and it'll stand to me going forward whatever comes my way. The focus on the here and now is Saturday, and it's trying to make sure we get things right for Saturday night.”
The Westmeath loss was a tough setback, but Kilkenny have responded during the current campaign. “I came out of that one, probably a greenhorn when I look at it going into that match,” Brennan reflects.
“I probably went a little bit with the flow whereas this year we were probably more bullish and determined and about setting out what we wanted it to be and what we wanted out of the guys.
“Certainly you'd be that little bit stronger in situations. It's probably juggling the two because Under 21 is a difficult grade with the Fitzgibbon Cup, you're dealing with eight or nine guys in the senior squad so you're always trying to juggle that and get the balance right and keep the group moving in the right direction.
“Look I've enjoyed it. It is sometimes shaped by the defeats and that makes you a little bit more battle hardened or a bit more educated as to what's coming down the line.”
With Kilkenny’s summer ending early at senior level Brennan doesn’t feel that any extra pressure or expectation is attached to the Under 21 crop now.
“No, not really, if they have I haven't seen it, and it just goes on,” Brennan responds. “Life goes on, it is just one of those things. The seniors were dumped out of the Championship early this year and life goes on the same. It is probably the likes of Brian, Derek, and James McGarry and the boys involved, Mick Dempsey, who are probably feeling it the most. They are the ones that are going to pour over that, I think there is a good mood in the county at the same time, they are very hopeful for these bunch of guys.
“These are the lads that are probably going to backbone the Kilkenny team going forward. It would be brilliant to get an Under 21 All Ireland under our belt as well. I know myself from winning, that winning brings confidence and it brings lads back that bit bigger and with a little bounce in their step over the winter.”
Brennan is simply delighted to embrace the managerial challenge. “It's different, yeah,” Brennan answers when asked about how it feels compared to playing.
“Certainly the mindset is different. There's not the same level of nerves because it's just all about getting the lads right. At this stage everything is done, it's about looking forward to the occasion.
“You're just looking at, trying to envisage what's going to happen, what could happen, what do we do with subs and all that kind of stuff. Just ticking the boxes, you're organising a lot of stuff. It's busier but it's great to be involved in an All-Ireland final. That's the bottom line.
“At the start of the year, you want to be involved in the big day so here we are and that's what we're looking forward to.”