IT Carlow's dramatic rise
Wednesday February 12
Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup Final
UCC v IT Carlow, DCU Sportsgrounds, 7.30pm
By Cian O'Connell
Regardless of what happens in Wednesday evening’s Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup decider against an accomplished UCC outfit, it has been a truly remarkable spell for IT Carlow GAA.
After participating in the 2020 Sigerson Cup final too, IT Carlow’s emergence as a seriously respected force in third level competitions is established.
Alan Nolan works as GAA Development Officer in IT Carlow and is thrilled by the fact that hurling and football matters pepper the conversations on campus presently.
“It is brilliant, over the last number of years the college has invested in facilities and stuff, they are really pro sport and pro GAA,” Nolan says.
“So it has been brilliant to obviously get the publicity with the teams playing so well on the pitch. There is a massive buzz here in the college, for the Sigerson Final I think we had four or five buses up from the college.
“There was a real massive buzz for that game, we would be hoping to get a couple for the final in the hurling too. This is untold for us, we haven't been to too many finals.
“Obviously the football was our first one in that and the hurling will be our second one ever. It is a great achievement.”
How DJ Carey and Pat Critchley extracted such positive performances from their respective IT Carlow teams is a source of optimsim and pride. A real emphasis, though, is placed on the importance and relevance of sport.
“The college has identified not just GAA, but just sport in general and has really put a lot of effort in,” Nolan admits.
“Facilities are key and obviously the personnel with coaches and players help. It is a mixture of having everything right.
“Having the likes of Mick (Dempsey) and DJ (Carey) in hurling is super from our point of view and obviously Pat Critchley and Pat Roe in the football, who would be two really good coaches.
“Having facilities is great, but the personnel in both managements and the players - giving them the opportunity to go out, to develop and progress is key for us.”
Being so prominent in the flagship competitions has aided Nolan’s job promoting Gaelic Games too. “Yeah, I came here five years ago; we don't get to that many finals, particularly in the top grades,” Nolan replies.
“It is about trying to get players out, getting them games and a good programme to be able to play GAA here in the college. Obviously it is brilliant with the flagship teams in hurling and football that they are doing so well this year.
“Hopefully that will have an impact in the years to come with all of the other teams - Ladies Football and Camogie and so on.
“You'd be hoping that you'd get a bit of a boost in the next couple of years in terms of the publicity we are getting. Obviously the standard we are playing at is brilliant and hopefully people will want to come in here to try to emulate what the lads are doing at the minute.”
Nolan also contributes to IT Carlow’s Coaching and Business Management (GAA) course - a welcome development for those eager to enhance their career prospects in a sporting arena.
“Yeah, my role is a dual role, I lecture on the GAA course, I look after coach education,” Nolan explains.
“So I obviously do that some of the time as well as looking after the GAA side of things in terms of the fixtures, organising buses, physios, food. It is a dual role in a sense.
“Half of my time would be spent on course work - correcting, delivering practical classes, theory classes and so on. The other half goes towards promoting Gaelic Games here in the college.
“It is definitely positive. With Leinster GAA backing it that is brilliant, they are putting out Games Development Administrators out to counties and clubs.
“Having the link with Leinster means a lot of the guys coming out of the course who want to go into Games Development roles are getting an opportunity. So there is a decent uptake there.
“Obviously we'd love if it was stronger, but there are so many sports courses out there at the minute it is very diluted in the market.
“Definitely what we have here at the minute is brilliant, hopefully we can continue to progress, to get good people out working in the GAA.”
In recent years Nolan enjoyed a spell playing for the Wexford senior footballers. Nolan stepped away from the inter-county game, but it was a most rewarding experience.
“I had great times with the Wexford footballers for the last two years, I really enjoyed my time in there, it was a great experience,” Nolan admits. "With the work, the evening work in particular, it probably wasn't fair on the college to continue on. I'd love to be in there with Paul Galvin, but it just doesn't work out.”
Instead Nolan has been fully and firmly focused on IT Carlow’s rapid rise, playing a valuable part in a most dramatic and unfolding story.