Sean Connor throws name in hat for vacant Finn Harps manager post

SEAN Connor has thrown his name in the hat for the vacant managerial post at Finn Harps, claiming it's a 'project' which excites him.
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The 55 year-old former Institute boss insists he's ready for a return to football management following a 'hellish' 15 months out of work after parting company with the Irish League outfit back in August 2021.

With the deadline for applications for the Harps vacancy on Friday, November 18th, Connor has become the latest to express interest in the position and it's understood he has since submitted his credentials to the club.

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The West Belfast man, who lives in Co. Donegal, has a decorated CV which includes winning the First Division title with Sligo Rovers in 2005 and three top five finishes with the Bit O'Red (2006), Bohemians (2007) and Dundalk (2009) in the League of Ireland top flight.

Connor joins the likes of former Donegal All Ireland winning manager Jim McGuinness, UCD assistant boss Willie O'Connor, Harps legends Kevin McHugh and Declan Boyle as potential candidates for the job while former Harps assistant boss Paul Hegarty and ex-Derry City and Institute coach Kevin Deery have also been linked.

Ollie Horgan departed the Harps hot-seat last week following the Ballybofey club's relegation to the First Division, ending a nine-year tenure at Finn Park.

With the club needing to work quickly to appoint a manager ahead of the 2023 season and get to work on assembling a team and renewing contracts, Connor believes he is the right man for the job given his vast experience and proven track record of finding 'rough diamonds', pointing to his unearthing of Ireland and Everton star Seamus Coleman while manager of Sligo.

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"Harps is the type of project which would certainly interest me," said Connor who qualified as a UEFA pro licence coach back in 2007. "I would see that as a long term project and a chance to rebuild the club from the bottom up so that's an exciting project.

Former Bohs, Sligo and Institute boss Sean Connor has expressed an interest in the vacant Finn Harps managerial post.Former Bohs, Sligo and Institute boss Sean Connor has expressed an interest in the vacant Finn Harps managerial post.
Former Bohs, Sligo and Institute boss Sean Connor has expressed an interest in the vacant Finn Harps managerial post.

"I'm interested in the Harps job because of the club's vision for the future and with the stadium plans, it can be a really positive time to be involved. The club has a lot of potential. In terms of the fanbase it's a sleeping giant."

Connor has been unemployed since leaving Institute and the Killybegs based coach opened up on the frustrations of months of uncertainty, during which time he suffered from a 'crisis of identity'.

"It's been hellish being out of work," he explained. "There is the odd day where I could feel really down but then I quickly get myself back into action. There's times when you do feel down but that's when you need your mentors, your family and people you can rely on.

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"One of the big things is that when you're a football manager, your phone is always going. People are always looking for you but the minute you're out of work, that stops!"

He has, admittedly, struggled with his mental health in the convening months and felt 'lost' and 'irrelevant' at times when the phone suddenly went quiet.

There's few jobs more demanding and immersive than a football manager and so when that interaction and engagement with players, the chairman, staff and supporters abruptly ends there's a large void to be filled.

"It has an impact," he admitted honestly. "You don't feel as needed or as useful or as important so it has an impact on how you perceive yourself within the world. You feel like you are no longer relevant or important and that's hard to deal with."

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He's now emerged from a period of soul-searching, frustration and reflection ready to return to the game and with a point to prove.

While Connor has been careful not to dive into the first available managerial post, the prospect of managing in the League of Ireland with Harps is an enticing prospect for the Belfast native given his extensive knowledge of the division and of the Donegal catchment area.

He's got a clear vision of the type of club he wants to work and reckons he's got at least one or two 'big coaching roles' left in him before he would contemplate moving in a different direction.

"Since I went to Sligo (2004), I've been a full-time manager so when I'm out of work, I'm out of work! It's not like I work somewhere during the night and manage a football team at night.

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"I left 'Stute in August at the start of last season; So that's 15 months! There's days when you get frustrated but one of the big things you miss is that interaction with your players on a daily basis.

"I get frustrated because I have a great belief in the principles I have. I know I'm a better coach and better manager now than when I was working way back when I was working in the League of Ireland top division.

"So that's the frustration. You know you're a better all round leader, manager, you're more mature, more experienced and yet you can't get the right opportunities to put that all into work. So that's the hellishness of it.

"I want to manage and I miss having players relying on me and the challenge of outwitting the opposition manager. Since 2004 I've been doing this full-time so when you're suddenly not doing it it's a big part of not just your life, but a big part of your persona and personality is wrapped up in your job, and then that's gone.

"For me, right now, I feel I have a point to prove to show how good I can be."

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