HE is the man with the Midas touch and at the age of just 33, Paschal Kellagahan is already making big waves in the GAA managerial world.
The Offaly man is the one who finally brought Monasterevan to the Promised Land of the Kildare senior ranks but while the club prepares for their first ever Leinster final, their manager is a dab hand at them.
His managerial career began with junior club Ballinabrackey in Meath when he was in his late 20s. It was a club in the doldrums by Kellaghan’s but not only did the former Offaly help them win a county title, they won a Leinster as well.
“They just wanted somebody in there to organise them and train them hard. We were lucky enough to win the junior championship and went on then to win the Leinster junior championship as well,” he says, modestly.
He had no real managerial experience going into that job but having played for some excellent Offaly teams, and with his own club Rhode, he had picked up a few tricks.
“I would have trained under some very good managers with Offaly and Rhode, especially with Rhode, we’ve been very organised there over the last ten or 12 years and winning championships, and knowing what it takes to win a championship. I brought a lot of that to it. I tried to be fair to guys and give them an opportunity to compete and win which is always good,” he said.
Kellaghan has wracked up seven county title wins in 11 finals. He also played in three Leinster club finals and a Leinster senior final for Offaly against Dublin in 2006.
“We were a point down at half-time to Dublin and were really going very strong that year and we could have gone in at half-time two or three points up. Dublin got a bit of a run on us in the second half, we had a man sent off and they beat us by six or seven points. That was a good enough year but we didn’t win so it wasn’t that successful but it was definitely an experience to get to two Leinster finals along with the club,” he said.
Kellaghan is still a handful for any defender and is still performing to a high level this year. Combing playing and managing is tough but it did provide him with an unforgettable weekend early in October.
“To win a championship on Saturday with Monasterevan and then with Rhode on Sunday was dream stuff,” he said, before acknowledging the role his wife, who is physio for Carbury, plays in enabling him to play on.
“I’ve a very supportive wife at home and a young family as well. Only for Martha I wouldn’t be able to do it, she is a wonderful person and she gives me the time to do it. Only for her and the support from family and friends it probably wouldn’t be possible,” he said.
Time, however, waits for no man and some tough decisions will have to be made about his playing career in the near future.
“I had a very good county final but we’re all getting older and I am the wrong side of 30 now and it’s going to get harder every year. The demands of training another team as well, they expect 100 per cent from me as well. Whether it is feasible to do six nights a week going forward I don’t know, we’ll have to have a hard look at it over the Christmas,” he said.
While it has been a tough year, it’s also been a rewarding one and Kellaghan is pleased his choice to come to Monasterevan worked out well.
“I wasn’t going to take a team because I was with Offaly under-21s this year but Monasterevan gave me a call in the middle of January to see would I come on board. I went to see the lads from the club and I could see by them that they were very hungry and were starved of success. It was the perfect challenge for me. I knew they were playing in Division 1 and had a lot of very good footballers. We all met up and decided and said that our main goal was to win the championship and that our second goal was to stay in Division 1. We had a shaky start. We had some very tough teams early on, Celbridge, Athy, Sarsfields, Moorefield, all the top teams in the first few games so it was a learning experience,” he said.
“They always had the footballers and were always fairly well organised but we brought a huge level of belief to it. I know we only drew the first game (of the championship) and then were beaten in the replay by Ellistown, that was a bit of a shock to the system but there was just a lack of belief there. The guys responded and pushed on and were great after that. It was nothing major but the guys responded to us and I’m delighted for the lads and everybody in Monasterevan, they are really enjoying the times at the moment.”
And these are times to savour for those involved with the club. Sunday’s Leinster final will be a landmark moment in the club’s history and Kellaghan is delighted with the manner in which his team have taken to the Leinster Championship challenge.
“The boys had a few days off and enjoyed their county title win but they were back the following Sunday and trained as hard as they ever had. The monkey seems to be off their back now, they were playing within themselves. Robertstown nearly caught us the first day in the semi-final but they are in bonus territory now and the shackles are off and it’s great to see,” he said.
Monasterevan have been highly impressive in seeing off Carlow champions Fighting Cocks and Dublin’s Cuala so far but their toughest test is yet come. However, with Paschal Kellaghan in their corner, they won’t be afraid of anybody.