Director of Coaching & Junior Academy
Brendan has a long history of working with young players and works with the top young talent in Ireland as a senior coach with the FAI’s Emerging Talent Program. Since his arrival at SMFC in 2010 Brendan has driven our Academy to hugely high levels of professionalism and achievement. Impressively, in 2012, within 2 seasons of Brendan coming on board, our top Academy graduates of that year entered the DDSL’s highest league for 2012/2013. Membership in his first season here rose from 20 registered trainees to 65. Brendan has also recruited a fine team of Academy coaches whose professionalism is constantly noted.
What are some of your fondest moments from your career playing football ?
I have been so lucky as a footballer to achieve so much. One moment that sticks out above all is making my debut for St. Mochta's Senior team at 18 years of age. I was a striker and scored on my debut in the Leinster Senior League 1B. Six months later I was playing in goal for the team and signing for Shamrock Rovers as understudy to the legendary Alan O' Neill. Shamrock Rovers won the league title that year. I trained and played with some league legends like Paul Osam, Peter Eccles, Alan and Dermot O' Neill, Stephen Geoghan, Alan Byrne, Gino Brazil. I was lucky enough to play League Of Ireland until I was 35 and winning player of the year at Monaghan United at 35 was special. There are so many, but these really make me look back and think how lucky I have been.
Did you always plan to go into coaching ?
I never had any plans to become a coach at all. I fell into it by accident. As a goalkeeper in Ireland there were no goalkeeper coaches at League of Ireland or junior football. I began to coach at the clubs I played at as a goalkeeper coach and I enjoyed it. It was particularly satisfying because I was able to coach they way I wanted and I could see the benefits in my game performances. I did a couple of coaching courses and that only enhanced my desire to be a better coach. I met a lot of brilliant coaches as I was learning and they always said to keep striving to become better. That's a challenge I wanted to take up.
Was it a long process to obtain your badges ?
It is a long process to get to UEFA standard and it is serious hard work that takes up a lot of time.The first step at Kick Start is a great beginners step, then you get to see a steeper climb to Youth cert. The gap between Youth cert and UEFA B is enormous. I would not have been able to complete my UEFA license without doing all the other courses before hand. It is vital to take your time as a coach and experience each section gradually before moving onto the next coaching badge. The UEFA B license is a year and a half long with 4 blocks of a week, each block before you get to your final assessment. I didn't do my first course until I was over 30 years of age because I was playing semi professional in Ireland. I would definitely encourage any coach to begin their badges as early as possible.
Any setbacks on the way ?
Absolutely. I never felt as disappointed when I got my first UEFA B outfield result back. I was given an incomplete and had to do a reassessment. I was extremely nervous doing my reassessment but luckily enough I got the pass and I haven't looked back. You always get little set backs as a coach, when a session doesn't go well or your team is beaten. I will always look for a positive out of any setback, I'm a firm believer that the only way to improve is by facing little set backs, but like it says, they are set backs and not impossible. As a coach you must believe, everything is achievable.
What advice would you give coaches looking to obtain badges ?
The best advice I would give from my experience is to take your time. Gain experience in training and match days, learn and develop your skills as a coach before moving to the next badge. Never be in a hurry to get to badge to badge. Patience and time are your best attributes as a coach. You must be open minded and be willing to listen to other coaches. I always try to take one item away from any advice. All the courses are of immense value and you will always learn something on any course.
Any changes you would like to see that would improve schoolboy football ?
I can only speak about our club in Dublin. I think it is vital that all the league's come together and every association works as one entity. We have different leagues playing by different rules and game formations. There are too many different ideas and each league trying to push their ideas and each league is trying to push their ideas as the best ones. I would definitely like to see the league's push for better sanctions for clubs and coaches that refuse to play under the development ethos. It is extremely hard to marshal this, but it is disappointing when some clubs will not play by the rules and just suit themselves. There is not enough equality to the leagues standards.
How do you keep yourself educated as a coach ?
I am also extremely fortunate to also represent the FAI as an external coach. I am in a unique position to be able to meet many different coaches from the International department as well as the development officers around Ireland. There are so many quality books, websites and DVD's to help anyone become a better coach. I try to take something from any sport that is similar to football and seek to implement it into my coaching. I am particularly intrigued to study American sports programs because they are mentally tough and there attention to detail is second to none. They are all about team ethic and not individual performances. I believe in working as a team, because a team will win you trophies and individuals will change games.
Brendan is the Ireland Under 18 and 19 Goalkeeper coach under the management of Paul Doolin. Ireland Under 19's recently defeated The Netherlands 1-0 in a friendly in Tallaght. The Under 18's last game saw them win 2-0 away against the Czech Republic in Prague.
How did the offer to become a goalkeeper coach for Ireland come about ?
Declan McIntyre was the goalkeeping coach for the Ireland under 18 & 19's and he was offered the same position at Derry City. Declan could not commit to the schedule of the Airtricity league and the many international fixtures that the national sides have to fulfil. Paul needed a new coach and I was unbelievably lucky enough that I was the first person that Declan recommended to Paul. I had a meeting with Paul and after some discussions, I was offered a position on his coaching staff. It was definitely an offer I was never going to turn down.
What's it like to work alongside Paul Doolin?
I have been very fortunate to work with some excellent coaches. Paul is an outstanding coach. I have seen immediately why he was so successful in the league of Ireland. The one thing that you realise when you work with Paul is, he is professional in everything he does. Whether it's a team meeting, meal times or on the training ground, he asks everyone to approach it with a professional attitude. He is meticulous in everything he does and this inspires you to do everything at a professional level. It makes you think, if you do anything, do it RIGHT. I cannot describe how much I have learnt in such a short space of time while iv'e been with the International team. I know this has helped me immensely in making St. Mocht'as FC a better club and how I would like to approach our coaching structure and help our club coaches.
Can you name some coaches you worked with ?
Johnny McDonnell who's the Shelbourne manager, Tom O' Connor Ireland Under 16 Manager, John Morling who's the Brighton Academy director, Noel O' Reilly, Demot Keely, Mitch Whitty who's the NDSL Academy director, John Gill and Mick Cooke. I have picked up so much valuable knowledge from all these coaches. You never stop learning as a coach.
Can you give us all an insight into how goalkeeping has changed from when you played, to how it is now, now that you are a coach ?
The best way to describe how goalkeeping has changed from my playing days is, a goalkeeper has the ball more at his feet than he does with his hands. The modern goalkeeper now has to be technically efficient as an outfield player. Particularly as they now receive a lot of back passes during a game and distribution is a huge part of a goalkeepers game. There are now more goalkeeping coaches, before you never heard of such a thing. This is why I brought a goalkeeping coach of International standard to our club. I think it's vital to give our goalkeepers the same quality coaching as our outfield players each week. You can see a massive difference in our keepers since Stephen has joined the coaching staff.
How do you view the standard of the national game at Under 18 & 19 level ?
I'm honest enough to say, I didn't appreciate how good our two sides are until I became part of the coaching staff. I didn't have time to see the Under 19's play. The main reason for this is, until March last year when Ireland played Romania, the Under 19's had played there last 45 games outside Ireland. Under Paul Doolin, we have an amazing record. We qualified for the European finals and reached the semi finals only 2 years ago. That is an unbelievable achievement for a country of our size. We regularly qualify for for the elite qualifying phase and this year countries like France and the Netherlands didn't get to that stage. These facts should tell anyone looking at Under 19 level how good the quality is. We don't give enough credit to the phenomenal work our under-age International coaches, players and staff do.
Have any nations surprised you at Under 19 level ?
We had Iceland in our qualifying group for the elite phase. They had knocked France out in the first phase. They were very good and a lot of their players are playing in the Icelandic professional league and Danish league. We also came up against Turkey and Serbia. These two teams were on another level altogether. One of Turkey's players has already played for Fenerbache 10 times, the Serbian goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic was only 17 and just signed for Manchester United, he was playing for Vodjidina in the Serbian professional league. The quality of the opposition is superb and I think not enough people in Ireland realise the standard of teams we meet regularly. We recently played the Netherlands in Dublin and their captain Jairo Riedewald is playing in the Ajax first team.
Any players we should look out for ?
There are a lot of good players in the under age International teams. The line is so thin to make it to the elite level. Conor Masterson who's at Liverpool and Robert McCourt at West Brom are very good. We have a goalkeeper playing in Anderlects Under 21 team. His name is Liam Bossin. These are only a few, but we have a lot decent players over in England.
What has been your proudest moment so far as a coach ?
Been asked to coach for my country has to be the highlight of my coaching career. There are only 5 International teams at under -age level and I'm coaching with two of them with the Under 18's and 19's. It's a massive privilege and honour to do this and to visit a lot of different countries is great. I take huge pride in coaching for St. Mochta's and I don't say that lightly. We have built a fantastic coaching structure within the club and an elite academy system that now has over 80 players starting football at 4-6 years of age. When I'm on International duty, St. Mochta's Football Club is as well.
You have managed in the Leinster Senior League, and coached at Drogheda United, have you any ambitions to manage again ?
When I was on the coaching staff at Drogheda United, I enjoyed it. I will manage again and I've been offered a lot of positions in the Airtricity league, Under 19 section, Leinster senior league and the AUL over the last two seasons. I've turned them all down because I believe in what we are doing at St. Mochta's is going to be something unbelievable. What we have achieved over the last few 3 years has proven that I've made the right decision to stay at our club. We are growing our standard of player and coach and we have one of the best academies in Dublin. It's a very exciting time to be at St. Mochta's.
Your brother Mark Kennedy is reserve team coach at Ipswich Town, he visited St. Mochta's FC two seasons ago, have you visited Portman road ?
I was over in Ipswich last year with a home based Under 17 Ireland squad. Our first game was against the Ipswich reserve squad. Mark was the manager and I was on the Ireland coaching staff. It was fantastic to look up the sideline and see my younger brother looking down at me. A moment you never forget. Mick McCarthy and his assistant also sat in the dugout watching the game and it was a very enjoyable experience.
Did you get to spend much time with Mark ?
Yes, Mark was fantastic over the couple of days we were there and he came to the team hotel and chatted for hours each night with all the players and Irish coaching staff. We spent a lot of time talking about St. Mochta's and all the changes that have happened over the last couple of seasons. He couldn't believe how much we have changed as a club and he regularly asks me how the club is doing.
How do you relax away from football ?
There is no relaxing. It's a 24/7 bug that never stops. Between St. Mochta's and Ireland, I'm extremely busy for 10 months of the year. When I am off I like to play a bit of Golf and also spending time with my wife Niamh when she is competing in her horse shows.
Finally, who is the best goalkeeper that you have seen play and why ?
That's a tough question. Really tough. I worked with Brendan Clarke when he was 15 years old, he plays for St. Pats now. I knew the minute I worked with him that he could play at a very good level. I also worked Ian Lawlor and had the same feeling. Ian is 2o and already the number 3 goalkeeper at Manchester City. Aaron McCarey was very good at Monaghan United and he's now Wolves number 2 keeper. They are all very good, they all possess a fantastic attitude, they worked extremely hard and listened to the coaches. They were always very professional and never messed about. They wanted to be footballers and the proof is where they are today.
Thanks to Brendan for taking the time out from his very busy schedule to chat to www.stmochtasfc.com.