Sean Connor: Glentoran are levelling up the playing field in the Irish League

Glentoran Manager Mick McDermott during the recent game against Linfield at Windsor Park in Belfast. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker 

Pic Colm Lenaghan/ PacemakerGlentoran Manager Mick McDermott during the recent game against Linfield at Windsor Park in Belfast. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker 

Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Glentoran Manager Mick McDermott during the recent game against Linfield at Windsor Park in Belfast. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true”, Gautama Buddha.

Watching the ‘Big Two’ derby live on BBC last week I was immediately impressed by the quality of the game from the first whistle to the last.

All was set for an intriguing night, what followed lived up to the billing.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

I am not going to write any further on specifics of the game but it was some of the comments coming from the television analysts on duty, that got me thinking. They all concurred that this season Mick McDermott and in general those around the club were a little chastened and quieter in the press,

and this was key to the positive start this campaign.

Now, to a certain extent that may be true, but for me a key point that was overlooked, was the fact that this was the fourth league season Mick and club owner Ali Pour, were starting as the main men at the Oval.

So, why is this so significant, in fact much more important than the silence that loudly emanates from East Belfast?

When Mick and Ali took full control at the Oval, the playing field was not a level one. Glentoran had been in a malaise of mismanagement, a stadium that needed investment (and still does) and year upon year of poor performances on the field.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Linfield on the other hand continued to win leagues and cups. Playing at a state-of-the-art stadium, basically handed to them and the financial rewards associated with playing at Windsor Park.

Once Ali and Mick got involved, all anyone could talk about was the money that they had to spend, the players they were signing. If you are a regular reader of this column, you will know that in the past I have talked about how hard it is to create and sustain a winning environment. I have written

about qualities and methods required to become a process focussed organisation as opposed to an outcome driven one.

This is, in fact, the very problem Mick encountered from day one. He was initially the only full-time employee at the Oval, literally opening and closing the gates on a daily basis. The Glens had a hungry support base to satisfy, longing for the glory days to return to the Oval. In addition to this, and I am not sure on this point, but I am confident enough to imagine that Mick had a lot of fires to put out around the daily running of the club, never mind the on the field development that was obviously required.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

I got to know Mick over many cups of coffee, and regular phone calls, whilst I was managing at Institute. We became close enough for both of us to discuss the vision, values and objectives we both had as coaches. We discussed our core philosophy around the game, eventually detailing the way we wanted to see our ‘utopic’ club being run.

It is based on this information that I am backing up my views this week and saying that the start to this season and all the positivity around the team, is much more to do with the time Mick has been at the Oval, than the silence.

Mick’s vision was clear, his values strong and he had well planned and timed objectives. Now I am also quite sure that most managers in the country north and south have a vision, values and objectives for their team. If not, I would ask the question, why are they in the job?

It was very evident to me that Mick valued the process he was undertaking, he was well aware that it would not be a linear journey, and he would encounter disappointment along the way.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Let’s start with the players Mick has brought to the Oval. Recruitment will make you or break you at this level. Some have arrived and hit the ground running. Patrick McClean and Jay Donnelly are good examples. Others have taken time to settle and maybe time for Mick to find their best position.

Some have simply not worked out. Either they could not match the values, behaviours and standards set at the club, or they could not deal with playing for a team where you are expected to win each week.

This season Mick seems to have got the mix spot on. Shay McCartan is now beginning to live up to his billing, while the other new signings seem to have settled in well. The balance of the squad looks perfect.

Mick is three full seasons into his process driven project. He is supported now with staff behind the scenes of his choosing, both coaching and administratively. He himself, I am quite sure, has reflected and adapted his methods to achieve his plan. So maybe we should be giving Mick credit for being a reflective process focussed leader, who has adjusted when required, but stuck to his core principles, rather than being quiet. He now has the right people in the roles he required, and got a group of players who have the standards of behaviours and performance needed to fulfil his and Ali Pours’ vision for Glentoran.

As the American football coach, Nick Saban said: ‘’Know what you want to accomplish, and focus on the process, rather than the outcome.’’

Related topics: