By Brendan McTaggart
Dan McConnell has been confirmed as Antrim’s new PRO with the St Agnes clubman taking the reins this past week. A 26 year old Marketing Manager, Dan had been assisting outgoing PRO Sean Kelly for the past three years but is now setting about filling the considerable shoes left after Sean’s five year tenure. “I feel very privileged to be the PRO, it’s a huge honour.” Said Dan when we spoke to him and when asked if he was at all daunted by stepping up to the post, the Aggies man had a positive outlook when he continued: “You could look at it that way but I think it’s an opportunity to take on the work Sean did and put my own slant on it. I’ve learned from probably the best PRO in Ireland and I’m looking forward to it massively.”
So how did it all come about? There does seem like a natural succession from Sean to Dan but it started with a Facebook message and a knock back: “I sent a message to the facebook page three years ago asking if there were any jobs going. I got a reply saying it was all voluntary but later in the year there was a post asking if anyone would be interested in helping out. I replied and things escalated from there. I met Sean for an interview in the city centre and that was that.
“Sean really took me under his wing from then. I really am thankful for everything he has taught me. He was amazing in the role and deserves all the media coverage and plaudits that have come his way.”
If he isn’t the youngest ever, Dan is certainly one of the youngest PRO’s in Ireland right now. The 26 year old said it was something he was keen to get into: “I was in sixth year at school and wasn’t sure on what path to go down. I loved media studies and my love for GAA was always. Sport and media kind of go hand in hand so it was ideal for me to get involved.”
Regularly seen around the pitches up and down the county in recent times, he is clearly looking forward to taking over the reins. The county’s newest PRO told us about his earliest memories in the GAA from playing in the Airbourne League and winning against Dunloy, Cushendall and Glenariffe as well as a meet and greet with the county hurling team at Casement Park” “I’ve been with the Aggies since I was 10 years old.” He continued: “I can remember someone coming around to our school looking for people to play soccer. It never really interested me but the following week another guy came and asked if anyone wanted to play hurling and football. I went to the first training session where we had nine or ten at it and it kind of took off from there.
“I played football and hurling but more hurling from minor onwards. We won the championship when I was 16 or so, it was massive for our club at that time. We had amalgamated with St Brid’s but we beat Sarsfields and St Pauls before defeating Rasharkin in the final. Stephen Rooney was involved with St Pauls at that time, we’ve joked about it since.
“In 2014 we reached the junior B final but Creggan beat us by seven points. That was the year they went on and won the All-Ireland. They beat Ballysaggart by four points in the replay so you never know what might have happened that year.
“The photo’s I used from my facebook post are memories I have from Casement. Meeting the likes of Karl McKeegan, Barney McAuley, Neil McManus and Johnny Tosh. That was amazing and I still have that shirt signed by all those guys.”
The PRO gig has been taken to new levels by the efforts of Sean in the last five years. It’s a massive job and a huge challenge but Dan told us he has no immediate plans to bring in a ‘side-kick’ but hasn’t ruled it out while telling us he will have an experienced ear to lend when required: “Sean will be there to help in the background for the next year or so. I can’t imagine bringing someone else at the moment but maybe in a couple of years I’ll do the same as Sean did with me.
“It is a lot of work but I think it’s key to get the balance right with the different media outlets. Insta would be more for the younger audience with the website geared towards older people. Twitter and Facebook will primarily be used for match coverage.”
Enthusiastic, energetic, keen beyond belief and from a generation that knows nothing but social media, Dan McConnell has the attributes to be an excellent PRO. He has been learning the ropes from the best in the business and that can only be a good thing for Antrim going forward.
Everyone at the Saffron Gael wishes Dan the very best of luck during his tenure as PRO and we look forward to working with you over the next five years.