AFTER A MAN-OF-MATCH performance in last year’s county final against Glenswilly, John Haran hailed Maxi Curran as a ‘magician’.
It was on the eve of Haran’s 38th birthday and he held the Peadar McGeehin Memorial Trophy after an inspirational display.
He’d seen it all before as a St Eunan’s player, but he spoke with a passion and conviction that told the story of Curran’s importance.
“It’s unbelievable – Maxi is the man,” Haran told reporters.
“He is the magician. When nobody else wanted to manage us he took on the job. He is absolutely brilliant. He is the man and now we are champions.
“When we started out at the start of the year nobody gave us a chance. For the first time in my 20 years playing with the club we ranked as outsiders.”
Curran (pictured above by Gary Foy) was appointed in January 2014.
It was a selection that sat uneasily in certain quarters of O’Donnell Park.
For the first time when in search of a senior manager, St Eunan’s went outside of the club’s membership.
Time was when the position was only open to club members.
Even the appointment of Curran, from Glen Village, whose CV was commendable, didn’t win over some within O’Donnell Park. Like all breaks with tradition, the move sat uneasily upon some shoulders.
The convincing would take time.
St Eunan’s were beaten by Malin in a Championship quarter-final in Buncrana in 2013 and there was a popular school of thought that St Eunan’s music had died.
Curran made no bold promises in the early moments of his tenure.
They defeated St Michael’s in his first game at The Bridge and Curran wagged a cautionary finger.
“This is a new team,” Curran said in a howling March wind.
“St Eunan’s, in a lot of peoples’ eyes, have an endless amount of talent. They do have a lot of talent, but St Eunan’s have lost a lot of players too.
“The fellas with all the medals are the wrong side 30 or very close to 30. There is a big gap because the next group are all in their early 20s.
“There is a huge generation gap.”
Curran talked about putting the young players in the right frame of mind ‘for down the line’.
Last November, St Eunan’s won their 14th Dr Maguire with players like Conor Morrison and Caolan Ward sipping from the glorious chalice for the first time.
Curran had them peaking just right.
St Eunan’s victory over Glenswilly in last year’s RTE Raidió na Gaeltachta SFC final. Video courtesy of Jacksonsmediatv
Like the trainer preparing a horse for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, there was little need in having a stormer at Chepstow.
By his own admission, Curran is a workaholic when it comes to dissecting opponents and formulating plans for his own men.
It was 5am on the morning of last year’s final when Curran flicked his lights out.
“Those are hours that nobody sees, but it’s part of football nowadays and, I know it’s a cliché to say that you leave no stone unturned, but that’s the way it is,” Curran said after the win over Glenswilly.
“It’s the children at home that lose out. My own wee fella is six and I’d be heading away to training and he’d he saying ‘don’t be going, stay home and play with me’. That’s like a dagger through your heart.
“Winning the championship is the only thing that can make that in any way worthwhile.”
Curran’s rise to the top of the managerial ladder at club level hasn’t been straightforward.
This is his first manager’s job at senior level in Donegal, although he was a video analyst with Gaoth Dobhair when they won Dr Maguire in 2006 and he trained Termon when they reached the 2008 final.
“I’ve never played at a top level so I’m still viewed with … I was going to say disdain, but there’s probably a certain amount of snobbery about it,” Curran says on the eve of another final.
“If you’ve been a great inter-county player, people think you’re better able to do a job and if you haven’t played at that level they assume you can’t do the job. I have encountered that a lot. People sometimes don’t appreciate the effort that goes into these things.”
A player with Downings before he delved into coaching, Curran, who hails from Glen Village, was involved with the Donegal Under-14 Development Squad in 2001. His group included Peter Witherow and Michael Boyle.
He managed the Donegal ladies to an All-Ireland junior title in 2003 and he has managed Donegal teams at all levels, male and female, bar one – the Donegal senior football team.
“Look, it’s a whole different ball game,” he says, hitting the question of ticking the remaining box with a straight bat.
“People on the outside have no idea what’s involved. It’s just scary. I’d be light years away from considering myself at that level. The football side is the easy bit. There is such fanfare and side shows and so many people to manage away from the footballers.
“It’s a full-time job and there are very few careers that lend themselves to combining with a senior inter-county job.
“People are quick to criticise, but they have no clue what’s going on. It’s a massive job.”
His first job as a manager was at Owen Roe’s in Tyrone.
“That got my head around learning how to deal with players week-in, week-out and the complexities that brings,” he says.
“It was exposure to a different style of play as well, which was very beneficial.”
Curran holds a degree in sports science and is a qualified PE teacher.
Coaching has always held an interest in coaching.
“My inability as a player and my love of the GAA brought the two together,” he says.
“I was never going to do anything on the field so this gave me the chance to be involved at some level.”
During his stint with the Donegal ladies, Curran went on a seminar on video analysis.
It is in this area that he made his name. Having been video analyst for Donegal in their All-Ireland-winning year in 2012, he currently does the job for Rory Gallagher and the Donegal seniors.
While moonlighting with Elite Sports Analysis, he worked with the Cork footballers, the Limerick footballers and the Galway hurlers.
“I soon realised that it was a seriously valuable tool and I couldn’t imagine now coaching a team without video analysis,” he says.
It hasn’t all been plain-sailing, though: “I had a couple of run-ins with the Donegal seniors before I got a couple of seasons at it. One year in particular, I was in and feedback didn’t sit well with certain members and my services were dispensed with because of that dissatisfaction.
“That was an interesting experience and I took a lot out of that in terms of the way it’s relayed.”