Turlough O'Brien relishing Éire Óg role
By Cian O’Connell
“It is your own club, you want to be involved,” former Carlow manager Turlough O’Brien says about returning to take charge of Éire Óg.
Sunday’s Carlow SFC Semi-Final against Rathvilly is next on the agenda for Éire Óg with O’Brien delighted to be assisting emerging players.
“It is nice to be back involved with the lads, we have a good production line in the club, really,” he adds.
“There is always young lads coming through, we are in the middle of a bit of a transition, maybe. We dominated from 2017 to 2020, now there is a bit of rebuilding going on and it is going fairly well.”
O’Brien operated on the inter-county beat between 2014 and 2020. “There is certainly less pressure, you know everybody involved, it is much more local in that everything is here beside you in the town,” he responds when asked about the differences.
“You know all the players around you. There is no real difference as regards preparation to be honest. Most club teams prepare to a very high standard, our lads are no exception to that. It is much the same from my perspective.”
Sport has taught O’Brien many lessons. Éire Óg were Carlow champions for four years on the spin, but things can change quickly. “That is right,” O’Brien replies.
“Covid came then too, I don't know how big an impact that was, but there was no crowds at some of the games. We lost the 2021 final to Rathvilly. It was a strange time.
“Really, we decided to get back together over the last 15 or 16 months. It is very hard to keep winning. People think when you are on top like that, it is only a matter of keeping going forever. It doesn't work out that way.”
The mind drifts back to the 90s when O’Brien recalls glorious times for Éire Óg before a barren spell was endured. “I remember back in 1998 which was the last All-Ireland semi-final we were in, and we assumed we were going to bounce back,” O’Brien says.
“It was another seven years before we won a championship afterwards, that was with a very strong Éire Óg team, who won five Leinsters. You get these peaks and troughs, I suppose. It is very hard to keep that appetite going when you have won four or five titles.
“There is a lot involved in being successful. Really it is only a matter of time before you get caught. There has never been much between ourselves and Rathvilly.
“When you are out in front like that, people want to see you beaten. There is a target on your back. That period of dominance ended in 2020, we just have to go again now, that is the way it is.”
So O’Brien is ready, willing, and able to graft hard for the Éire Óg cause. Enjoyment is critical according to O’Brien. “Going out on to the field is great, it is a pastime,” he says. “You’re working all day and it is a nice way to get away from the pressures of work and so on.
“You're out with the lads, it is great craic. You're always trying to find new ways of doing things too. You'd be looking at what other teams and counties are doing. You're trying to learn, then bring it back to your own lads, to see can you improve the standard.
“There is nothing as rewarding as seeing young lads coming through, making the breakthrough, and establishing themselves on the senior team in the club.
“We have a lot of young lads. We have three adult teams. The intermediate team are in a semi-final, the junior B are in a semi-final, so there is always a lot of young lads coming through.
“The challenge for Éire Óg is to keep them all involved, that you don't lose anyone. Often it is late developers that become the senior players. It isn't always the star players at underage that come through. You enjoy all of that. It is great craic, I enjoy going to the games, it is in our DNA really.”
As a town club O’Brien is adamant about the fact that players should always be encouraged to participate, to find a way. “Sometimes because you have numbers it is very easy to let someone drift away,” O’Brien says.
“The club is good that way, they do keep in contact with lads to make sure they stay involved. You have lots of players that wouldn't have had an illustrious underage career, but they do come through in the end.
“They can be the most reliable players you have, maybe they appreciate all the more what they achieve when they had less success at underage. There is a good blend of experienced players and young lads.
“They gel very well together, the older lads are very good at giving direction and setting an example. We had two lads last week dropped from the previous game, the game was on a Sunday, the recovery session was on the Monday, but they came to do the extra bit of work with the players that hadn't been used in the game.
“They had played half a game, but there they were anxious to get back, to make sure they were challenging for their position for the next week. It is great to see that.”
O’Brien remains proud and passionate about Éire Óg.