St Patrick's Athletic are delighted to confirm the appointment of Denis Hyland as our new U15 Manager. Former Saint Sean O'Connor will return to the club as Assistant Manager.
The SSE Airtricity U15 League of Ireland will begin in August 2017 and will see a third team added to our academy structure along with our U17s and U19s.
Denis, Sean and Director of Football Ger O'Brien sat down with stpatsfc.com on Tuesday to speak about their new roles and the plans for the future.
The new gaffer, who has worked with the FAI for the last 12 years, began by telling us how he got the job.
"I spoke to Ger about his plans for the academy set up and I already knew about the brand of passing football that the club is known for, so for me it was a no brainer to join St Pat's. I'm delighted with the opportunity and excited about this challenge."
Denis is also the Ireland U18 Assistant Manager, Dublin North Emerging Talent Head Coach and worked under Tom O'Connor with the Ireland U16s for a number of years.
40 people applied for the position. We asked Ger why Denis was the man for the job.
"He showed a huge interest and once we spoke to him, he was our preferred candidate."
"Denis and Sean both know what type of role they are coming into and the age group really well. It's a good age to work with and is key as it's our youngest League of Ireland team. The idea is to try to get the best players into our U15s, and then have a period of 4/5/6 years with them though the U17s and U19s and hopefully into our first team or across the water, if that is the path the players are looking to take."
Sean O'Connor, a UEFA B Licence coach, played for the club from 2005-2007 and 2011-2012. He's also Director of Football at one of our partners, Crumlin United, and will remain in that role.
So why did he want to come back to Inchicore?
"I'm really excited to be coming back to the club and I can't wait to get started. It's a great opportunity for myself, Denis and all of the players and we are really looking forward to starting work."
"I was a St Pat's fan growing up and have obviously played for the club so I think I have a good idea of what's expected of being a Pat's player. I've seen a lot of the U17s and U19s training and playing over the last 18 months. I know the type of football that's expected which is very similar to my own views of how the game should be played."
Sean is fully focused on the future and is excited about working with Liam Buckley, Ger, Denis and the rest of the staff at the club.
"I know I left the club under a cloud the last time. I felt that a lot of my quotes were misinterpreted in the newspapers, I've spoke to Liam and I feel that I've cleared that up. There was never meant to be any malice in the quotes. I'm fully committed to St Pat's now in my new role and we are all focused on the future."
Denis is looking to translate his previous experience into his new role at Richmond.
"I've worked with elite players over the past 12 years so I think I can bring my knowledge and experience to the group to help them develop as individual players and to reach their potential."
"Helping the players and their parents also with the challenges they face both on and off the pitch, especially with how Irish football and life in general is changing, is something I feel will be an important part of the job."
Our U17s are the current SSE Airtricity League U17 Elite champions, having beaten won the Northern Elite Division and then beaten Shamrock Rovers, Waterford and then UCD in the final.
The U19s also won the Northern Elite Division, but lost their national quarter final to Galway United in 2016.
Denis says the style of play is something that attracted him to the job.
"It's one of the main reasons I took the job. St Pat's are well known for the attractive possession based style of football, and I think we'll be the best place for any young player could only develop their game, and our U17s and U19s have shown over the last few years. It's important at the U15 level that we create a learning environment too to help educate the boys about the game."
He'll be no stranger to the rest of our academy coaching staff.
Hyland is currently on the UEFA Youth Elite A Licence coaching course with Ger O'Brien, U19 Assistant Manager Martin Doyle and U17 Manager Jamie Moore.
All four already have the UEFA A Licence qualification. This course specialises in working with elite players aged 13 to 19 as Denis explains.
"To have our Director of Football, U19 Coach, U17 and U15 Manager as four of the 20 people of the UEFA Youth Elite A Licence course shows the calibre of coaches working at the club. We are all trying to add to our knowledge to help who we feel are some of the best young players in the country."
Working within a familiar coaching team is something Denis feels is very important.
"I think continuity is vital in every club. The U19 and U17 management teams have been in place now since 2015 when the U17 league started and that's very important for the players and the club so the staff can be consistent in the type of things we are asking the players to do from U15 all the way to the first team."
While Sean is looking forward to working with some of the best young players the country has to offer.
"From a coaches' point of view, it's easier when you work with elite players. It definitely makes the job easier and means we can help them with the more advanced aspects of their game. It makes it more enjoyable for everyone."
"Our job now is to continue to process of recruiting the best young players to St Pat's, help them improve in the short season, move some into the U17s in January and then begin our first full season next March."
Ger told us how Sean's appointment came about
"Every Pat's fan knows Sean, he's had a couple of spells at the club. I've played with him and he probably had his best season of his career here in 2012 when he was nominated for PFAI Player Of the Year. Obviously he left then but we are delighted he's back. He's been coaching underage football and on the scene for a number of years, he'll be working towards his A Licence soon."
"Everyone can look over what happened before when Sean left but as far as I'm concerned we'll be leaving that in the past. Sean has been a great help over the last year with organising the training venue for us in Pearse Park, he's been heavily involved in player ID too. He's coming back to help St Pat's and our young players begin their career playing for our club and that's the key."
The U15 league begins in August with a ‘short season' which will run until November, with players born in 2002 and 2003 eligible to play. The first full calendar season will kick off in March 2018.
Ger told us that process of identifying the players is done.
"Our player ID is done. We've been out watching games for almost 18 months at all of the younger age groups and we are all aware of the players that we want to bring in. The U15 league will be new to everyone. We feel we have the environment to attract the best players and the best coaches and that's very important."
"Getting the best players into the best environment with the best coaches is what we will be looking to continue to do with the U15s and then the U13s in a year or two, it's an exciting time for the club."