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A life in corporate banking beckoned before a twist of fate turned Alan Mathews' world upside down

The new St Patrick’s Athletic boss insists the club are taking a ‘collaborative approach’ with their management structure for this season.

St Patrick's Athletic manager Alan Mathews.
St Patrick's Athletic manager Alan Mathews.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

HE HAD A good run all the same.

Fifty years man and boy; from Shamrock Rovers supporter during the dark days at Milltown in the 1970s to pulling on the famous green and white for his beloved Hoops in the middle of the 80′s revival.

He persevered with his playing days for another decade, meandering from Bray Wanderers to St James’ Gate, via Galway United, Kilkenny City and Longford Town.

After settling into working life in the banking world in the mid-90s, management offered him a route back to the League of Ireland, building on the work of Stephen Kenny as Longford Town boss and duly winning back-to-back FAI Cups in 2003 and 2004.

A scattered existence was to follow at places like Cork City, Shelbourne, Bray , Athlone Town and, seemingly, a final port of call with Longford to bring things full circle.

stephen-odonnell St Pat's head coach Stephen O'Donnell. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

So, yeah, Alan Mathews had served his time – some might say penance (but he wouldn’t) – and the 54-year-old had settled back into his full-time role within the corporate banking sector.

He was still a young man, by no means the youngest, and it had appeared that the game had moved on. Another experienced figure left behind as progress marches on relentlessly. 

Only not exactly.

A twist of fate altered the course of Mathews’ plans, offering the sort of inviting role that was impossible to turn down: St Patrick’s Athletic manager.

But there was a caveat.

Mathews had remained involved in the game since leaving Longford in 2017, taking up a position on the Richmond Park club’s board having built up a level of trust with owner Garrtt Kelleher from their dealings in business.

So, when St Pat’s appointed Stephen O’Donnell as their head coach towards the end of last season, it became apparent that they needed someone with the required Uefa Pro Licence to be the figurehead.

Similar to the arrangement which saw John Gill return to champions Dundalk alongside Vinny Perth last season, Mathews filled the void.

Far from being an empty suit there to simply tick a box, Mathews played a key role in recruitment over the winter, has been granted added leave from his day job in order to attend training every day, and will be on the touchline alongside O’Donnell on matchdays.

It’s a very modern arrangement for a very modern situation.

alan-mathews-26102003 Mathews (centre) celebrates winning the 2003 FAI Cup as Longford Town manager. Source: INPHO

“It’s great,” Mathews beams. “It is a collective approach, the owner is very supportive with the resources available, we are all trying to get the club back to the top level where we feel it should be.

“I am there to support Stephen in any way that I can,” Mathews continues. “We all have to be together to push the club on, creating a positive working environment to get the best out of people.

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“It’s great to be involved again and to get out on the training pitch, being around the players and talking football with Stephen everyday. Everyone wants to play football in the right way, do things in the right manner and be successful because everyone at the club was slightly disappointed with everything last season.”

Missing out on Europe cost previous manager Harry Kenny his job before the campaign was out. That led to O’Donnell’s appointment and, as a result, Mathews’ third act.

But far from thinking only about the short term, the Dubliner is helping the Inchicore club plan for a future in which they see themselves as the standard-bearers in all aspects of the League of Ireland – from the U13 National League all the way up to the Premier Division.

We are working on a number of initiatives that would help to propel the club to what we would like to think would make us the number one choice for young players to come to,” Mathews teases.

“There is a real desire no establish ourselves in that regards and to give them every opportunity to have a pathway to the first team. The league has got a hard time from a lot of people for different reasons but I know the calibre of people that are involved and giving everything that they can to bring things forward.

“To keep bringing quality young players through, they need to have proper facilities and an infrastructure around them. They need to have a good education, too.

“Bringing this all together with the board and seeing it come to fruition is something we are determined to achieve.”

There can be no banking on success in the future but Mathews is committed to at least shaping a brighter one for St Pat’s.

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