From Dublin’s class of 2011, Ger Brennan is the first to bolt for the bainisteoir’s bib.
When he leads Louth out for their O’Byrne Cup opener in January, Brennan will become the inaugural breakout player from Dublin’s 2011 All-Ireland winning side to manage a senior intercounty football team.
Several others have dabbled in the coaching arena – Bryan Cullen is Dublin’s high-performance manager, Philly McMahon had a strength and conditioning role with Shamrock Rovers and was also a performance coach for Bohs, while Kevin McManamon and Darren Daly both featured as part of Dessie Farrell’s Dublin management team this season.
But Brennan is the first to make the step up to take the reins of a county team. He will be one of three Dubliners managing in next year’s Leinster SFC – Farrell with Dublin, Paddy Christie in Longford and Brennan making the journey up the M1.
Brennan retired from the intercounty game in October 2015 and while he continued to play for St Vincent’s, the two-time All-Ireland winner has been on a pathway towards coaching ever since.
In November of that year he was appointed Gaelic games executive with UCD, succeeding his club colleague and mentor Davy Billings in the role.
Indeed, Brennan’s managerial trajectory adds to a rich history of mentors from the Marino club – with Vinnies having produced several coaching icons including Kevin Heffernan, Mickey Whelan and Pat Gilroy.
Brennan’s first significant step inside the managerial tent came in late 2019, when Bray Emmets appointed him as their senior football boss.
“We were delighted when Ger agreed to come to us,” recalls Bray chairman Paul Cunningham. “He took over in difficult times as it was just before Covid, but his work during that season went above and beyond. We had a great victory over Rathnew in 2020.
“There was the added challenge for him coming here in that we are a dual club, this year there are 11 players crossing over between hurling and football.
“But Ger was very good with players and in building team morale and spirit. There were occasions when some players couldn’t make collective training on a certain night but Ger would get in touch and arrange to take that player for a one-on-one session the next day.”
During that 2020 season Brennan also joined Niall Carew’s managerial set-up in Carlow, with the former Dublin centre back taking on a coaching role with the Barrowsiders until the end of the 2021 campaign.
He was appointed Moorefield senior football manager in November 2021, just days after stepping away from Carlow, and remained in charge of the Newbridge outfit until last month’s Kildare SFC quarter-final defeat to Naas.
Cultivating relationships appears to have been a cornerstone of his stewardships so far and Cunningham says Brennan would still be in touch with members of the Bray club to check how things are going.
Brennan had been linked with the Monaghan job last August but ultimately the Farney County kept the position in-house and appointed Vinny Corey.
It is understood Brennan was also in the mix for the Laois senior football position this term but that process continues to drag on and the O’Moore County still has to appoint a manager. They are now over three months trying to find a replacement for Billy Sheehan.
The Louth role only became vacant two weeks ago when Mickey Harte pushed the eject button. Speaking to LMFM after Monday night’s county board at which Brennan was appointed for a two-year term with the option of a third year on foot of a review, Louth chairman Peter Fitzpatrick expressed his annoyance at how Harte’s exit materialised.
“It’s just disappointing the way it ended,” he stated. “I said it at the county board meeting, I think it’s a wee bit disappointing the way Derry approached the Louth manager knowing that Mickey Harte and Gavin still had two more years left to work with us.
“We never once approached any other county that already had a manager in place.”
Harte’s departure was a blow for Louth, but it has become an opportunity for Brennan. He has assembled a strong management team with James McCartan of Down and DCU professor Niall Moyna.
Louth will have a transitional coach in David Whyte, Paul O’Flynn as a sports psychologist and former Ireland centre James Downey as a high-performance and culture coach.
“I’m not surprised to see Ger take on an intercounty role,” continues Cunningham. “He left a positive legacy in Bray and he put good structures in place.
“If Ger was going to do something, he’d want it done right and I’ve no doubt he’ll be looking to leave Louth in a better place now as well.”
That is the challenge for Brennan. He is replacing a managerial behemoth in Louth but must carve his own path. The Wee County finished third in Division Two and advanced to the Leinster SFC final in 2023, but only time will tell if that was a season of overachievement or the genesis of something greater.
Meanwhile, Derry GAA has confirmed Enda Muldoon, Paul McFlynn and Murtagh O’Brien will form Harte and Gavin Devlin’s senior football management team for the 2024 season. Matthew Godfrey will assume the role of lead athletic development coach.
Former Derry forward Muldoon was an All-Star winner in 2004 and has been involved with the county’s senior management team since 2019. McFlynn and O’Brien are also former Derry footballers, while the latter coached the Derry minors to their All-Ireland triumph earlier this year. Godfrey previously worked as lead academy athletic development coach at Ulster rugby.