Stephen O’Donnell Suspicious By His Absence

We recently found out the participants who have been accepted for the most recent UEFA Pro License course that will be run by the FAI from 2020 until 2022. The list includes some very notable names from the world of League of Ireland and beyond. The full list of 20 coaches participating are as followed for anyone interested.

Tim Clancy – Drogheda United Manager

Dan Connor – Wigan Athletic Senior Goalkeeping Coach

Carlo Cudicini – Chelsea Loan Player Technical Coach

Kevin Doherty – Drogheda Assistant Manager

Daire Doyle – Longford Town Manager

Tom Elmes – Wexford Youths Women’s Manager

Anthony Hayes – Charlton Athletic Lead Professional Development Coach

Ruaidhri Higgins – Dundalk Assistant Head Coach

Denis Hyland – Bray Wanderers Coach

Graham Kelly – DLR Waves Manager

Andy Keogh – Former Republic of Ireland International Player

Ian Morris – Shelbourne Manager

Alan Murphy – Galway United First Team Manager

John O’Shea – Reading First Team Coach and That John O’Shea

Sean O’Shea – AIK Stockholm Assistant Coach

Aidan Price – Shamrock Rovers II Head Coach

Matthew Ross – Republic of Korea Women’s National Team Assistant Coach

John Russell – Sligo Rovers Player/Coach and FAI Development Officer for Sligo

Ian Ryan – UCD AFC Assistant Manager

James Scott – Republic of Ireland Women’s Under 17s Head Coach

Applications open for UEFA Pro Licence Course | Football ...

Plenty of League of Ireland representation in that list as you must be enrolled in a UEFA Pro License course to be eligible to manage in the Premier Division which is why Shelbourne manager Ian Morris needed to be enrolled. Even First Division clubs would want their managers or coaches to be enrolled in case of promotion up to the Premier Division. Before the 2019 season the rule briefly changed so that a manager of a club must have completed the 500 hours required to successfully complete the course to be able to manage in the Premier Division. This was yet another controversial rule put into place by the FAI.

It led to situations at clubs when they would have to suddenly find ways around this rule. So, when a new manager would be appointed who didn’t have their pro license course completed the club would then have to appoint another manager alongside him or her to comply with this rule. The most recent and obvious example would be Vinny Perth at Dundalk who is currently enrolled and studying for his UEFA Pro License but had to have John Gill beside him as head manager as Vinny Perth didn’t yet complete his pro license course.

It was looked at as controversial because across the board in Europe the rule is that once a manager is enrolled in a UEFA Pro License course its fine for them to be the sole manager of that club. An example of that would be Steven Gerard at Rangers who is currently working towards his pro licence but can be their sole manager in the SPL and Europa League.

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Another club that finds itself in this situation is St. Patricks Athletic. As they announced Stephen O’Donnell would be replacing Harry Kenny after his sacking in 2019. This was O’Donnell’s first managerial job as he only officially hung up his boots in early 2019. So, O’Donnell was appointed Pats manager, but not only did he not complete his UEFA Pro License course he wasn’t even registered for one. This meant the club had to employ someone that did have their pro license to act as first team manager, so they got in experienced manager Alan Mathews to fill that role.

It is believed that Stephen O’Donnell has full control in the dressing room and Mathews is just involved to cover the clubs back with the FAI guidelines laid out about coaching badges requirements for managers while also been an experienced figure to help O’Donnell. So, people believed that Stephen O’Donnell would be apart of the list of participants for the latest UEFA Pro License course recently just made public. Plenty of people were left confused when he wasn’t especially with the new ruling for this season that managers just needed to be enrolled in a course to be the sole manager at their club.

Stephen O'Donnell confirmed as new St Pat's manager

It now must be asked why isn’t he apart of the latest course? With him being so young for a manager at just 34 and being involved with football at a professional level since 2003 one would think his long-term employment prospects would be in a managerial role. If this is the case, you would think personally he would want to get his pro license in the bag especially this early into his managerial career to set off on his own. While this is all being speculation its clearly an aspect he wanted to transition into as he immediately took up a background staff role at Dundalk upon announcing his retirement.

Perhaps this background role may be the reason that he isn’t involved in the latest pro license course. The requirements for the pro license course are to be a holder of the UEFA A License and be working as a coach within the game at a professional level for one year. O’Donnell announced his retirement and began his new role with Dundalk in January 2019. The role he took up was as the Senior Opposition Analyst and Scout for the club. This role may not be classed as a coaching role as other football associations like the English FA it doesn’t fall under a coaching role. So, this would mean O’Donnell only has over six months of coaching experience since he took up his at St. Pats in the end of August in 2019. This would make him ineligible to take part in the upcoming course if the FAI rules are like others.

To keep the speculation cycle spinning another reason could be for financial reasons. The courses as to be expected is not cheap with the last course that took place from 2018 until 2020 had a starting price of €8000 which the club would pay. So now with clubs struggling to make an income due to the current ongoing pandemic. So maybe the club didn’t think it was able to pay this money with all that’s going on. The club need to priorities were their money goes now and didn’t see this as a priority with the return of football still uncertain. Especially now that they found Alan Mathews to come in and fill the role as head manager while O’Donnell reportedly given the freedom to control the team as his own anyway.

Angry St Patrick's Athletic boss Stephen O'Donnell could be in hot ...

While this is all speculation and just food for thought there could be other reasons behind it only people involved within the club will fully know. It was just an interesting name to be missing from the list of participants. Especially with O’Donnell coaching one of the bigger teams in Irish football at the top level who wouldn’t see themselves as likely to be relegated. Also when you consider that the chance to do his UEFA Pro License probably wont be available now in Ireland until 2022 were he will surly be participating as by then he will be more than qualified with his originally two year deal at Pats well up by that point.

Just to finish off a huge congratulations to all that made the cut onto the course this year and best of luck in the completion of the difficult course.

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