St Eunan's manager Rory Kavanagh and chairman John Haran.
St Eunan's manager Rory Kavanagh and chairman John Haran.

Haran remains heavily involved with Eunan's

By Cian O’Connell

During a decorated playing career with St Eunan’s John Haran accumulated eight Donegal SFC titles.

It was a glorious era for the club, but now Haran, part of St Jarlath’s Hogan Cup winning panel in 1994, is the St Eunan’s chairman.

The progressive Letterkenny based outfit recaptured the Donegal crown last year and face Naomh Conaill in another decider on Sunday.

How did Haran become involved so quickly in an administrative role? “The first thing with our executive there was always a senior player representative on the executive,” Haran replies.

“So I was that for probably 10 years, it gave me an insight into going to executive meetings, seeing what was going on in the club.

“When I stopped playing I became vice chairman which is handy enough. Then when the chairman was thinking about stepping down, he had come back for a second stint, he did great work.

“I just thought that I had a few ideas that I would like to implement for the club on different things. If you are going to do these things, if you have ideas you need to step up - not be the boss, but if you are going to do it be a leader, to try to push it on.

“We are not that kind of a club where people were queueing up to get the job, there wasn't any politics involved. If you want to do it, and think you can do a good job, then go ahead. That is what I did.

Inevitably different challenges have been embraced. “The first year we were very quiet because we had Covid,” he adds. “One of the things I did straightaway when the pandemic started, I rang the HSE I told them they could use our facilities as a test centre, straightaway free of charge. We were one of the first to get out of the blocks.

“So they had a test centre at O'Donnell Park for six months. I enjoy it, but it is busy, we have a big club. We have a lot of different teams and people, but we have a great club. There is no politics involved, everyone is looking to do the right thing, to provide good facilities for the young teams.

“We want to get good facilities and good coaching programmes in place, just try to keep the thing moving forward.”

That willingness to develop is what drives St Eunan’s. Significant work must be carried out to remain relevant in a large town.

“You have massive challenges, that is what I see now that I have three young fellas, 10, 8, and 4,” Haran responds. “They are involved in the academy in the underage, they are going to soccer, swimming, and athletics. In a big town you have massive challenges. I can see that now.

“As the biggest GAA club in Donegal we have a responsibility to try to provide the children in the town with the best facilities, to give them the best experience when they come to O'Donnell Park for training and matches. That they get good quality coaching and good facilities.

John Haran won eight Donegal SFC titles as a player with St Eunan's.
John Haran won eight Donegal SFC titles as a player with St Eunan's.

“All of that takes time and money, getting people trained up and getting people to come on board. You have massive challenges, but you do have the luxury of having the numbers.

“The numbers are there, it is up to us to make the most of it, getting them young children to O'Donnell Park. You have Letterkenny Gaels, Termon, and Glenswilly on our doorstep so there is plenty of competition for young players and children coming through. There are massive challenges in that regard.”

Between 2015 and 2021 Eunan’s didn’t reach a county final. So how relevant for the long term health of the club is it to be back seriously competing in Donegal.

“As chairman I have to look at the bigger picture, to try to see everything - the bottom line is the man on the street - St Eunan's are judged on their senior team, if the senior team wins the championship or not,” Haran states.

“For six years from 2015 to 2021 we weren't even in a county final so they were barren years with people giving out saying the glory days were over. We knew we had a young team coming through. For the senior team to be in a county final is massive, it gives you great profile. The game is going to be live on TG4, people will be chatting about it, hopefully it will be a good spectacle.

“We are showcasing our senior team, if our senior team can win it gives the young people in the club something to aim for. They can see Shaun Patton, Niall O'Donnell, and Caolan Ward - that they are playing for Donegal and St Eunan's. They can see them and that is very important.

“For a big town when you have all the different sports you have to keep the profile up there. If you aren't in county finals challenging, nobody is talking about you. When there is nobody talking about you that is not a good thing from a GAA clubs point of view.”

Haran appreciates the value and importance of sport. The fact that teams at every level now have a full schedule of matches again is critical.

“It is brilliant, I'm involved with the U10s, I have a son playing, I get a great kick out of that and you get a great kick from seeing the children having great fun going to tournaments around the north,” he says.

“They don't know how lucky they have it, when we were growing up there was none of that. Sport and the GAA is massive, it gives people a great outlet. This week people are chatting about the match and they have been chatting about the championship all summer.

“You need to something to look forward to, we are lucky we are in a county final. So people have something to chat about, they can go down to the field to watch the senior team training and go to the matches. It is brilliant to have the games back on, because it was terrible on the young kids.

“They missed out on a lot - the socialisation from meeting their friends and going to tournaments, just playing football. I think everyone has bounced back well, we should be thankful for it, and we shouldn't take it for granted again.”

That type of attitude is serving Eunan’s well.