The AIL Division 2C season is nearly upon us and Galwegians are set to begin their fight for promotion against Tullamore this Friday. Ahead of the new season, we talked to assistant coach Shane O’Brien, who’s looking forward to the challenges that come with a brand-new campaign. 

Joining the coaching staff last summer, Shane has a wealth of experience to offer for this Galwegians side. Originally coming from a GAA background, Shane took up rugby at a young age playing for Crescent College in Limerick, a school with rugby built into its DNA and from there, his rugby career blossomed:

“When I hit sixteen or seventeen, I think I knew I wanted to stay involved in rugby more, and then I came out of school, I started training as a U20 and that’s how it really took off. It really started becoming more and more of a first love for me”, he said.

Shane was part of the set-up for Young Munster RFC when he received the opportunity to join the coaching staff here in Galway. Relishing at the challenge, he accepted the post which has been part of our coaching set-up. 

Throughout his time in Galwegians, he reflects on the trials and tribulations of being a coach and the pressures of the job. A teacher by trade, he faces the obstacles of balancing work and sport and being there for the club:

“At the moment, I’m finding that teaching is my second job and rugby is my first job. All Ireland League coaching isn’t just two hours on a Tuesday and Thursday and a four-hour day on Saturday.”

“It’s a full-time job between your video review on a Monday, phone calls throughout the week, and making sure all your players are enjoying it or if they are having things in life troubling them, you can be a guide and be open enough to talk.”

The responsibilities that are given as a coach compared to a player drastically differ and it is no different in Shane’s role stating that “you take it home a little bit more as a coach”.

“As a player, you can have a bad performance but you can go to training and try to rectify it. Whereas a coach, you always wonder when you’re going into a Saturday, have you prepped everything enough, have you looked at the opposition enough?”. 

“Have you changed the shape of play you wanted to tweak, have you gotten the message across to the players? As a player can go on instinct, as a coach you have to rely on the message you give mid-week, sometimes you can overthink things a little bit”. 

With a new crop of players this season ready to show their hunger and capability out on the pitch, the team is well-prepared for the season’s opening fixture, with the boys training regularly and sticking to a regular gym routine. Shane remarks about the importance of a positive mindset ahead of the first few games of the campaign. 

Stating that winning the first few games would be key and would definitely “shake a few monkeys off our back” after relegation last season and would provide the confidence needed to take the new year into their stride:

“I think that there’s a little bit of added pressure this year because of the division that we are in. But I think we need to welcome it, the squad that is here this year has the ability to get out of this league with no problem.”

It’s been a busy pre-season for Galwegians as they are building up towards the trip away at Spollanstown, but it wasn’t optimal as the team hoped it would be with a turbulent Connacht Senior League campaign in comparison to last year

But Shane is assured that there is a consistent improvement from this senior side as a series of friendlies have seen their side grow in confidence. 

“There have been six matches between the Connacht Senior League and friendlies, and think we have improved every week which is the most important thing, we showed a lot against Cashel, a decent AIL 2A side, so I’m hoping we can bring some confidence into this very tough game Friday night”. 

“The first goal will be to get into the top 4, then become the team to beat afterward. When you win more games, you become more confident so they can never know what could happen then once you are going into the playoffs”.

Tullamore will be fierce competition for this Galwegians side who narrowly missed out on promotion to Division 2B last season. Shane knows they cannot be underestimated and will be the first major test for their own promotion ambitions.

“We have a very tough start, Tullamore lost only one game all season so it will be tough on Friday. Not only them but Clonmel are a very strong side too we play them early on too. The first few games will be the main focus on try and get as many points as possible”. 

“But in terms of confidence, I have definitely seen it grow as the summer has gone. In the last few weeks, we have seen a bit of a mindset change, players have taken real ownership at training in different aspects”. 

Best of luck to Shane and the whole Galwegian squad this weekend ahead of their first game of the season against Tullamore.