DECLAN Boyle has a simple philosophy as he prepares to lead Finn Harps into the new Under-17 League, which gets underway with a home game against Derry City on Saturday at 5pm.
“The best get better from playing against the best,” says the Killybegs man, back at a club that reveres him.
During three separate spells at Harps as a player, Boyle played 370 times for the club and scored 21 goals.
The centre-back captained Harps to the 1999 FAI Cup final and was the skipper when they won the First Division in 2004.
It was to Boyle that Harps turned when they went in search of a manager for their maiden voyage at Under-17 level.
“It feels good,” Boyle told Donegal Sport Hub.
“When you are a player you don’t want to let anyone down so you are very focused on your own game.
“This role means the focus is on a whole group of people and responsibility for the Under-17 project.
“I feel the Under-17 league is a critical development for Finn Harps, the league of Ireland and the national game.
“It is imperative that we learn from the successful European Academies.
“In the end everyone will benefit – the clubs, the league, the game and, most importantly, the player.”
Harps, Derry City, Drogheda Unitedm Monaghan United/Cavan, Bohemians, Shelbourne and Dundalk are in Section 3 of the League which will run until the end of November.
Boyle said: “The interim season offers us the opportunity to introduce the players to an environment where they will be preparing to compete at national level every week.
“We aim to help the players have a better understanding of the physical, technical and mental capabilities that are required if they want to progress to senior football.
“It’s important the players learn how to integrate their game into a collective playing strategy.
“This will, of course, take time as we are dealing with very young players.
“The work we do in the interim league will give us a continuity into the 2016 season.
“The endgame will always be to educate and develop players so some become first team squad members as early as possible.”
As a youngster, Boyle won FAI and League Cups with Sligo Rovers and moved to Celtic as a teenager. He was the reserve team captain at Celtic Park before a serious leg injury scuppered his Hoops career.
Boyle won a League of Ireland title with Derry City in 1997 before making the switch to Harps.
He’s seen and heard the negativity surrounding Harps in the past, but he feels the club is on a good footing with his own appointment coming at a time when Joe Boyle was named as the club’s Under-19 team with Trevor Scanlon spearheading the development of the academy.
He said: “We are all aware of negative feedback in years gone by, but now I think everyone can see the club now placed huge emphasis on player development.
“There are currently over 140 underage players at Finn Harps.
“There is good communication between managers at all levels of the club. Everyone is on the same hymn sheet, both on the board and on the coaching staff.
“It may take time to see the benefits of this joined up approach and it will also take ongoing support and finance from supporters and the community.
“However I think a lot of perceptions about Finn Harps has changed.
“For example we all really enjoyed the recent coaching clinic and it was great to hear positive feedback from coaches who attended. We have huge respect for the clubs and coaches who have nurtured the young talent who have now come to Finn Park.”
Boyle, who will be aided by Barry Patton and Damien Bradley, believes Harps can really reap the benefits of the new League.
He said: “Finn Harps first team managers have always found it difficult to persuade players to relocate to Donegal.
“Unless they are paid silly money why would players from big population centres in Dublin and Cork to come here when they can find clubs nearer to their friends, family or work?
“We are convinced that we are get the right structures in place and while it may take time, we can produce quality senior players for Finn Harps FC.”
Boyle won promotion with Harps in 2004 and again in 2007. Since their relegation in 2008, Harps haven’t tasted Premier Division football.
Now, though, the dream isn’t quite as distant as it once seemed with Ollie Horgan’s men at the summit ahead of Friday’s top-of-the-table clash with Wexford Youths.
Boyle said: “Ollie and the management team have done an incredible job getting to a position where we are being talked about as promotion contenders.
“It gives everyone a lift around the club. The knock on effect of playing in the Premier would be of course be huge.
“We have already noticed a lot of young players deciding to come to Harps where, previously, they might have thought twice about it.
“There is no doubt when the first team is competing at the top everyone in the county is talking about us and this can only be a good thing.
“Whether we get promoted or not, I think everyone will stay focused on our long-term goal, which is to build an exciting but sustainable project.”Tags: