MANCHESTER United have swooped to snap up one of Sunderland’s rising young stars and while this new signing will NOT be performing on the pitch, she’s very keen to make an immediate impression in the ‘Theatre of Dreams.’
Orlaith Meenan, who has spent the last year employed as a Venue & Event Sales Executive at the Stadium of Light, has agreed terms; passed the medical and she will kick-off her career next month at Old Trafford as the “Red Devils” new Business Development Executive.
In fact, next month will prove to be a ‘double whammy’ for the delighted daughter of Danny and Sharon Meenan, from Derry’s Kylemore Park, as she will also be celebrating her 26th birthday!
Educated at St. Cecilia’s College before graduating from the University of Ulster at Coleraine with a degree in Leisure Events & Cultural Management, Orlaith has experienced something of a rollercoaster ride over the past four years.
Struggling to find a job at home, she opted to take the “voluntary” route as she attempted to follow her dreams.
A six months sojourn in Derry City Council’s Tourism Department was followed by a stint, again in a voluntary capacity, working for the Football Association of Ireland and those two experiences were to prove highly significant in later years. “I struggled to get employment after graduating and rather than hang around I took on a few voluntary roles, working at Derry City Council and assisting the FAI at home matches and later helping out at two annual general meetings, one in Co. Clare and the other in Co. Donegal,” declared Orla.
“I did not receive any payment but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and given that my daddy helped me as he is employed by the Council, it all worked out well for me in the end,” she laughed.
Having applied and got accepted to join a two years “Graduate Programme” with Tourism Ireland, Orlaith was based in Coleraine for one year spending the second year in the “Big Apple” and, suddenly, her life began to take shape.
“As my year in New York was coming to an end I faced the prospect of coming home with no job. I really enjoyed my time with the F.A.I. and attempted to get a placement year with a few football clubs in England, but those approaches didn’t work out.
“I was then informed that Sunderland were seeking people to work for them. I got the details, made an application and I was then interviewed by telephone.
“I did okay with that and then agreed to be interviewed again, this time by ‘Skype’ from New York and I was offered the job as a Venue & Events Sales Executive - so I was back in football again!”
Working at the Stadium of Light over the past year has been really good for Orlaith having made many friends, but while her boyfriend resided in Manchester, the plan was always to try and move closer to him.
“While at Sunderland, I recently learned that Manchester United were seeking a Business Executive and while I honestly didn’t expect anything to come of it, I felt it was important to apply, if only to express an interest.
“A few days later I received a telephone call from the club, offering me an interview the following week which I was delighted to attend at Old Trafford.
“To be shown around the stadium was fantastic. I was amazed at the Stadium of Light when I first saw it and I always felt it was massive, given the corporate facilities, but Old Trafford was something else.
“I was absolutely stunned at the facilities. It was mesmerising, it really was.
“I felt I did a good first interview when there and I liked the people who were dealing with me. I was then called back, I think the candidates had been whittled down to three or four and I was absolutely astounded to have been offered the job,” declared the Derry lass.
“It was amazing. My family was delighted, I was delighted and, as far as I’m aware, my boyfriend was also delighted,” she laughed.
However, before moving to the North-West, she must work out her notice of one month at the Stadium of Light before officially taking up her new post.
“Obviously, I’ve been told what the job entails and it’s certainly not unlike what I had been doing at Sunderland. However, as Manchester United is considered a world wide brand, the club conducts so much business off the football pitch.
“As a Business Development Executive, my main responsibility is to generate and attract business to Old Trafford Stadium. From business such as attracting conferences, special functions and work shops, down to the staging of weddings etc., indeed anything that can be accommodated inside the stadium.
“At Sunderland, concerts played a big part in my role but I’m not sure if Old Trafford is actually used to stage concerts.”
Orlaith explained that multi-national companies and organisations, based in the UK and abroad, constantly hold conferences in London and she understood that Manchester United appears to be keen to break into that particular market.
“Big firms from Germany and France have used fashionable football stadiums for their conferences in London and with Old Trafford being in a position to facilitate such demands, it comes as no surprise that the club is keen to attract that type of business,” she concluded.
to the experience, Orlaith Meenan’s attitude to take on those voluntary roles a few years ago appears to have paid handsome dividends.
After all, a year working in New York for Irish Tourism followed by an interesting position with a Premiership football club and then to take up a job with one of the biggest brands in the world of professional football has certainly been a rollercoaster ride with a difference.
“I’m really excited about the future and while I felt that working in a voluntary capacity with Derry City Council and the Football Association of Ireland would sit well in my C.V., I really didn’t expect that voluntary work to play such an important role in my life,” she concluded.
Indeed, the Kylemore Park lass may not have had that many approaches from the local footballing fraternity to visit her at Sunderland - after all she arrived after James McClean had left for Wigan - but she can be assured that she will emerge an instantly popular young lady by the legions of United fans both inside and outside her family circle.