Mattie McGleenan: 'They want to run with winners'
By Cian O’Connell
In the long, baking hot summer of 1995 Mattie McGleenan became the first Eglish clubman to play in an All Ireland Final for Tyrone.
Eglish remain a proud Tyrone outfit where the late Cormac McAnallen’s influence and career will always be respected and acknowledged.
Since those days when McGleenan was renowned for fisted goals and smart forward play alongside Ciaran ‘Dinky’ McBride and Peter Canavan, he has busied himself, like the others, preparing teams at different levels of the game.
Three Monaghan Senior Football titles in four years with Scotstown confirmed McGleenan’s coaching pedigree and potential.
Now on the eve of the Allianz Football League McGleenan is relishing the opportunity to build on the solid foundation that Terry Hyland established with Cavan.
"Terry Hyland and his team have left a great set-up."
“Absolutely, there is no question about that,” McGleenan says about the positive reaction of the Cavan panel. “Terry Hyland and his team have left a great set-up.
“They have left a group of players that have a great attitude. You can see that they have been in great physical condition. That isn't a three month or a six month process. That is a three or four year process, and it is because of Terry Hyland and his men and what they have done to get these guys to this level of conditioning and physicality to play Division One Football this year.
“Certainly from my end of things they are fantastic young lads, they are very open to listen and to learn as I am. It is a two way process and it seems to be working right now. I have to say the lads are fabulous.”
Cavan’s deep tradition and four Ulster Under 21 titles on the spin between 2011 and 2014 ensure hopes remain high. “I think the players are driving the thing very much now,” McGleenan remarks about Cavan’s potential.
“You have Martin Reilly there, you have Killian Clarke, Conor Moynagh, Dara McVeety, they are fantastic leaders in any football team. You can see easily that the players are driving the team in terms of their attitude and approach to training.
“That is having a huge knock-on effect down through the rest of the players. It is plain to see that they have bought into that whole idea. I think the big thing going forward this year is that Cavan haven't played Division One Football for so long, there is a huge challenge for those players to stay in Division One.
“I think they are really looking forward to it and that is a fantastic motivational piece heading forward into the next six or eight weeks.”
That demanding assignments arrive thick and fast in the top flight is of huge relevance according to McGleenan, who is looking forward to Sunday’s Kingspan Breffni Park opener against standard bearers Dublin. “Absolutely, if you don't want to play against Dublin, Kerry, Mayo, Tyrone, Donegal because them players want to challenge you to play above yourself in terms of your performance,” McGleenan comments.
“I see it as a fantastic period of time ahead, for me and for the players. We have a few weeks until Dublin, the All Ireland champions, if that isn't motivation for you to train and prepare and to learn.
"If we take all of the learning lessons from the National League this year then we will have a good go at the summer."
“Dublin aren't the All Ireland or National League champions for nothing, they will teach us so much more about our game than we are ever going to get in a training session. That will be a huge catalyst for us going forward in terms of a management team or as a playing team going forward for the rest of the summer.
“Every team we play, each team is going to challenge us differently in terms of our preparation, in terms of our mental preparation and our physical preparation. That is going to make these guys better players. We would hope then that by the summertime if we take all of the learning lessons from the National League this year then we will have a good go at the summer.”
With Scotstown McGleenan forged a bond with the locals – silverware and success subsequently followed. How important is it to forge such a meaningful connection with Cavan? “Most definitely, a long time ago I had Sean Og O hAilpin in the house, the first time we launched the Camp Chormaic initiative which was a Summer Camp in memory of Cormac McAnallen.
“I remember having him in my kitchen with my children, I'm going back 10 or 12 years ago. The advice I asked Sean Og was what advice can you give my children and he said the best advice I can give them is 'run with winners'. At that point it really stuck with me in terms of that was his mentality.
“He wanted to run with the best player because the best players were going to make him a better player in hurling or football. That has always stood with me.
“In Scotstown I ran with winners, they were absolutely fabulous young men, who wanted to win and to achieve, to get the best out of themselves. I have found the same in Cavan, I have found a group of men that want to run with winners, they want to be successful.
“They want to get the best out of themselves, they want to perform. Winning is a bonus in this situation, but certainly if we get the best out of the team, the team is going to be hard to beat. If you are hard to beat then sometimes you win a few games.”
Now entering the inter-county arena as a manager McGleenan highlights the environment and grounding Scotstown afforded him. “When I first came into Scotstown I was the first outside manager to come into Scotstown,” McGleenan recalls. “I wouldn't call it pressure, to me it was a challenge because this club and team had put confidence in me so I could help them be successful.
“The players themselves were fantastic young men of Scotstown. Between the two of us pushing each other and cajoling each other we went on to achieve fabulous things over the last four years.
Scotstown have been a fabulous grounding for me in terms of preparing for this level of football and I'm just delighted that Cavan gave me that opportunity to go to see what it is like playing Division One Football.”
“I see the attributes being similar in terms of Cavan, a similar mindset with the players. The players want to achieve, they want to be successful, the whole process is two way. The Scotstown players, the Mark Duffys, the Kieran Hughes', the Darren Hughes', the Caulfields, the Brian McGinnitys.
“Those players challenged me to be a better coach, to be a better player. They motivated me and in turn I motivated them. The rewards what we got were fabulous, I see the same thing in Cavan. Scotstown have been a fabulous grounding for me in terms of preparing for this level of football and I'm just delighted that Cavan gave me that opportunity to go to see what it is like playing Division One Football.”
Cavan’s 2017 journey truly starts this weekend when Jim Gavin’s Dublin roll into Kingspan Breffni Park - McGleenan is already enjoying and embracing the challenge.