AWAY FROM the tactics boards and mathmatics text books, Ollie Horgan’s hidden talent is playing the piano.
He’s a trained pianist and the Galweigen can turn his fingers to anything from Bach or Beethoven to Verdi and Wagner.
There are similarities between Horgan’s story as the manager of Finn Harps and the rise of Mozart, the great Austrian composer.
Mozart’s road to the top was littered with endless planning, countless hours of traveling in primitive conditions for only scrimps of reimbursement – circumstances with which Horgan is all-too familiar.
When he was interviewed for the Harps job after Peter Hutton’s resignation in 2013 – after the Derryman handed a copy of his resignation statement to two local journalists on the terrace beneath the press gantry in advance of the final home game of the season against Athlone Town – Horgan was said to have ‘shot the lights out’.
One official who was a part of the interview process said what caught their eye with Horgan was that he was keen ‘to create the right atmosphere and environment in terms of the set-up, the backroom team, the preparation, the away trips and the club in general.’
Picture caption: Ollie Horgan, Willie O’Connor and James Gallagher head for the half-time team talk with their troops holding a one-goal lead against UCD on friday night. Picture courtesy of Gary Foy, newsandsportfiles
Finn Park will host its biggest crowd possibly in eight seasons tomorrow night when Harps welcome UCD to Ballybofey for the second leg of the First Division play-off.
Bar last year’s run to the FAI Cup semi-final, Harps haven’t had too much to play for past the month of August in recent times.
2014 was typical of their form: A promising start before fading away. Only for the Cup sojourn, the curtains would have been shut long before St Patrick’s Athletic handed them their coats in the form of a 6-1 defeat.
Horgan pondered long and hard over the winter months and changed tact ever so slightly.
“The main thing was that we didn’t do as intense a pre-season as we did last season,” Horgan says.
“Michael Black has again been doing the fitness work with us and he’s been brilliant.
“While it was a good pre-season, it was very much a gradual thing. We could have run the risk of losing a couple of games at the start of the season.
“Even though we got results, we didn’t really kick into form until maybe the third or fourth game in.
“Last year, the pre-season was very intense and we started well – but that eventually caught up with us.
“We set out our weekly plan a little differently to last year as well in terms of recovery sessions. It has paid off for us so far.”
In an interview before the Cup semi-final last season, club captain Kevin McHugh attempted to explain what Horgan had brought to the table that led to him ‘romping home’ when he was interviewed for the job the previous year.
“We’ve had everything a senior club needs – and I mean everything from the video work, to the strength and conditioning, to the nutrition,” McHugh said.
Previous managers had brought similar methods down Navenny Street. With Horgan, there was one slight, yet key, difference.
“The big thing is that it hasn’t stopped like it did in other years,” the Killea man said.
Horgan has had to piece together a squad for an amount that would hardly tip the scales at around €2,000 a week.
Overnight stays are a thing of the past and several of his players are in employment, which means taking days off to board a bus in Ballybofey to head for far-flung League of Ireland venus at St Colman’s Park in Cobh, Ferrycarrig Park in Wexford or the Regional Sports Complex in Waterford.
“There is nobody here for the love of money, believe me,” Horgan says.
“There’s a bit of pride there in that dressing room. That’s been a help and it shows that they’re here for the right reasons.
“There are men there who have come back from Cobh at maybe five o’clock in the morning and had to go to work a few hours later. We have gone up and down on the one day to places like Cobh, Waterford and Wexford – and all for very little effort.
“They deserve a bit of support I believe.”
They’ll get it tomorrow night when the old ground is likely to make a din that hasn’t rang around the Twin Towns since the promotion-winning campaign of 2007 under Paul Hegarty.
Horgan has had to put square pegs in round holes during spells of the season when injuries or suspensions took a grip of things, but the versatility of his players has allowed the changes be seamless.
He hasn’t played the same eleven for two consecutive games and last week made big calls in leaving the in-form Matthew Crossan and the experienced Michael Funston out of his starting line-up.
“We’re long past the stage of men crying about not playing,” the Harps manager says.
“The attitude of these players is brilliant and we need versatility in the squad.
“No-one has ever come and said to me: ‘I want to play in this position’. They’re all just mad to play in the team. It’s been a real help when we’ve had to patch things up that we have players comfortable in a number of positions on the field.”
As he runs his fingers along the ivories now, he can surely sense the Premier Division on the horizon.
It’s a long way away for now, but closer than it has been for quite some time.Tags: