Most new county team bosses who are about to dip their toe in the championship waters for the first time invariably admit to a feeling of apprehension, even fear as they prepare to make the quantum leap from relatively low-key league fare to high-intensity action.
But Derry manager John Brennan is very much the exception. He may be only a few days away from leading his side into the Ulster Championship, a competition in which the county has experienced nothing but false dawns for the past thirteen years, yet he remains cool, calm and collected as he ponders what will be a landmark occasion in his managerial career.
No false modesty or time-worn clichés are employed as Brennan, bolstered by a hugely impressive track record at club level, eagerly anticipates what he feels will prove the most exciting challenge he has ever faced.
“To be blunt, it’s nothing to me to be managing a county team,” insists Brennan, “I have had the privilege in the past of working at club level with some of the best players that Derry has ever produced. I like to think that I made them the players that they were so I have no fears about county team management.”
Brennan’s achievement in plotting championship successes with clubs in three different counties over the course of the past decade certainly sets him apart from rank and file managers and while he has still to prove himself in the most demanding arena of all, he is certainly not encumbered by pressure of any sort.
He has already overseen Derry’s Dr McKenna Cup suc
cess and their drive to reach Division One which just failed with Laois and Donegal instead climbing into the top tier.
“I have faith in my own ability. I believe that it is much easier to manage good players and Derry certainly possess plenty of those.
“ I have had the pleasure of working with people like Conor Gormley from Tyrone among others in the past at club level and it made my job very satisfying. It is always better to work with players who will listen. Players who do not listen will under-achieve as will their managers,” raps Brennan.
He was in the frame for the Derry post previously but Damian Cassidy was preferred to him at that stage. Undaunted, Brennan continued to enhance his reputation at club level and when Cassidy’s tenure ended he was in pole position to take over as his successor.
To say that Brennan is putting his own stamp on proceedings in the Derry camp would be to delve into the realms of understatement.
There are no convoluted theories in relation to strategy nor is there room for damage limitation measures on his blueprint.
“Look, I am no mathematician but I think if I can get maybe ten players to produce 51 per cent effort against their opposite numbers then there is a good chance that we will win the game on Sunday,” insists Brennan.
It’s a simplistic approach perhaps but a philosophy into which his players have already bought enthusiastically.
Skipper Barry McGoldrick makes no bones about the admiration for their boss and stresses that his enthusiasm, commitment and attitude have proven infectious.
“John sets a great example himself and it’s up to the rest of us to follow it. He is much more interested in developing Derry’s strengths than in worrying about opponents although at the same time he is a walking encyclopedia on other teams.
“He will not be fazed by the pressures of the job and training is enjoyable because there is always great variety and a brilliant atmosphere,” says McGoldrick.
If Brennan faces into a microscopic examination of his credentials by a discerning fan base on Sunday then the Derry players themselves know that their reputations are on the line.
“We as a team have failed to deliver in the Ulster Championship for too long now and it’s something that we have to rectify,” adds McGoldrick. “We have home advantage against Fermanagh on Sunday and we will have to make the most of this and see what that takes us.”