Former Senior football boss joins Youths' backroom
A familiar sporting face - albeit primarily from another code - had everyone talking when Wexford Youths commenced their pre-season training programme for the club's first-ever SSE Airtricity League Premier Division campaign in Ferrycarrig Park on Wednesday.
Jason Ryan, the former Wexford and Kildare Gaelic football manager, has joined Shane Keegan and his squad as strength and conditioning coach for this phase of their preparations and will be putting the players through their paces for the next two months.
The Waterford native also boasts a thorough grounding in soccer through his work as a P.E. teacher and the time he spent in London before returning to Ireland.
After guiding Clongeen from out of the wilderness to a breakthrough Co. Senior football title in 2007, he took over the Wexford Senior football team the following year and incredibly led them to an All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone at the first attempt.
He remained in that role up to the end of the 2012 championship campaign before joining Kieran McGeeney's backroom team in Kildare.
And when the Armagh native returned to his county of origin, Ryan took over as Lilywhites boss for 2014 and 2015.
He is no longer in that position but got involved with the Taghmon-Camross club towards the end of last year's campaign and helped them to a first Junior hurling championship title since 1987. They are also still in contention for Under-21 football Roinn 1 honours, with the competition delayed for several weeks owing to the ongoing bad weather.
Ryan's knowledge and expertise in team preparation will be put to good use by manager Keegan who was among exalted company on Friday when he was shortlisted for the Soccer Writers' Personality of the Year award which was won by Dundalk's scoring sensation Richie Towell, who recently completed a lucrative move to English Championship side Brighton.
The other nominees for the top award, which can be won by a player or a manager, were John Caulfield who brought Kevin O'Connor to Cork City and showed great faith in the Curracloe lad's ability, Daryl Horgan of Dundalk, his boss Stephen Kenny, and Shamrock Rovers striker Brandon Miele.
As well as confirming the signing of Paul Murphy, Youths have also secured the services of 18-year-old goalkeeper Matthew Connor from Waterford United. The talented youngster has been capped for the Republic of Ireland at Under-17 and Under-18 level.
'I'm delighted to be joining the club,' Connor said after signing. 'It's a club that's going in the right direction and there's a great bunch of lads here, staff and players, and I'm already impressed with the level of professionalism around the club and I'm really looking forward to the challenges ahead.
'I got a call off Shane (Keegan) a few weeks back and I had a very positive meeting with him. I knew a lot about the club from being away with a few of the players in Korea during last season (with the Irish colleges team). With what Shane had to add, it really was a no-brainer to join.'
In other news, a Cork native who numbers Wexford Youths among his former clubs has been appointed the Irish Colleges and Universities national team coach.
Greg Yelverton received a soccer scholarship to the University of North Carolina and, when the now 35-year-old returned to Ireland, he played for Cobh Ramblers and in Ferrycarrig Park before finishing his playing career with Leeds A.F.C. in the Munster Senior League.
And a former Youths player will be on the opposing side this season after Sligo Rovers completed the signing of Jimmy Keohane from Woking in England.
The 24-year-old Kilkenny native was a crowd favourite at Ferrycarrig Park before crossing the water where he played with Bristol City, Exeter City and Woking.
Torquay United had also shown interest in the midfielder whose contract with National League side Woking expired last week after he made 15 appearances for them since August.
While all attention is on the first-ever SSE Airtricity Premier Division game at home to Longford Town on Friday, March 4, Youths also learned during the week that they will be travelling to Athlone Town for the Leinster Senior Cup fourth round tie on a date to be confirmed.
The rest of the draw is: Shamrock Rovers v. Liffey Wanderers, Collinstown F.C. or Killester United; UCD v. Crumlin United or Willow Park; Cabinteely v. Tolka Rovers or Bluebell United; Drogheda United v. Bohemians; Longford Town v. Thomastown United or Drumcondra; Shelbourne v. Dundalk; Bray Wanderers v. St. Patrick's Athletic.