Sean Gannon has enough on his plate at the minute preparing for Eire Og’s upcoming Leinster club football final against Ballyboden St. Enda’s on Sunday.
However, with his native Carlow creating a buzz for both good and bad reasons over the past few years, it was always going to be difficult to side-step questions surrounding the Barrowsiders.
Both codes within the county have experienced an upturn in fortunes recently, however, the footballers stagnated slightly in 2019 having been relegated from Division 3 of the Allianz League before exiting the Championship in the first round of the qualifiers.
As a result, Steven Poacher stepped down from his role as coach of the senior footballers. It’s fair to say Poacher was like marmite with many leading pundits quick to criticise the Down native.
However, one thing is clear, those who worked under Poacher hold him in the highest regard. Sean Gannon being one of them.
“Yeah, I’ve got great time for Steven,” Gannon said at the launch of the AIB GAA Club Championships Provincial Finals Media Day.
“I’m doing a little bit of coaching myself and he’s been a huge help, just robbing his ideas and that kind of stuff (laughs). No, I said it earlier, Steven, he brought such a positive, like he was so positive when he came in.
“He brings such a buzz with him and he genuinely instilled a bit of belief that we don’t care who we are playing, we are going to go up and give this a good rattle and I supposed that has kind of transformed Eire Og players too coming back.
“Like, we’ve no issues rubbing shoulders with the big guns and he has instilled that in an awful lot of us.”
The main criticism levied at Poacher is that he is perceived to be negative and ultra-defensive, something that the now-former Carlow coach addressed when speaking to Pundit Arena earlier this year.
“It’s funny these guys who love to make comments on my sessions have never actually seen me coach. They’ve actually never seen one single session that I have done and they’re very, very quick to jump on a bandwagon,” Poacher said.
“When I took over at Carlow, they had been beaten by 28 points in the Championship by Meath and had the worst defensive record in Ireland, they were shipping 25 points a game. So, obviously the way Carlow were playing wasn’t good enough to be competitive.”
Sensing that the question was coming, Gannon was quick to highlight the improvements made under Poacher while describing his training sessions as ‘deadly’.
“Again, your next question probably is about the system he has played, it’s been fantastic for us. Maybe, it doesn’t look like we’re very attacking compared to other counties because other counties are better at it than us.
“But when he took over we were the second worse defence in all of Ireland. So, he had to sort that first and he did, I think we ended up going third or fourth-best in all of Ireland so he sorted that.
“And he was clear about his process. All we did in training was attacking stuff. It was deadly, his training was excellent that way. You could see it that the plan was that we have that sorted now, let’s improve, improve, improve.”
Gannon feels that Poacher was harshly judged by others off the back of the narrative that had been created around him.
While the Down man may have left, Turlough O’Brien is still at the wheel. Gannon has full confidence in that O’Brien will get someone else in while also highlighting that the onus is now on the players to produce.
Whoever comes in though, one thing is for sure, in many ways they won’t compare to Poacher.
“But he just got a bit of bad stick in national media outlets and that just forms everyone else’s opinion and it just steam-rolled a bit.
“He’s going to be a massive loss but again, Turlough will get someone else in. There’s such a group of lads around the same age, 29/30/31, we talked about player-led earlier, this is going to have to be player-led because the next person in, it’ll be unlikely that he has a personality like Poacher.
“Because if he does, I haven’t met him yet, I don’t think there is one. He’ll have a tough job but it’s up to us to make sure that it runs seamlessly because we don’t have too many years left playing together.”