HARRY Redknapp’s managerial stint with Castlehaven GAA Club reminds him of his first job as a coach.
Redknapp will take charge of the Haven in the AIB The Toughest Rivalry clash with Dublin club Erin’s Isle, who have Gianluca Vialli at the helm, on Sunday, August 12th at Moneyvollahane.
The two clubs met in an infamous 1998 AIB All-Ireland club semi-final where Castlehaven were beaten by a controversial, last-minute questionable goal, and 20 years on the clubs meet again, ready to settle some unfinished business.
Adding colour to the sideline will be Redknapp (with Niall Cahalane as his assistant manager) and Vialli, with the Haven stand-in manager having already visited West Cork to meet his new club and learn as much as he can about Gaelic football before the big game.
‘If I had to compare Castlehaven to any club I’ve ever worked with before, it would have to be Oxford City,’ Redknapp said in the latest AIB The Toughest Rivalry online blog.
‘It was a non-league team, playing in the Isthmian League, and I went there with Bobby Moore.
‘We had a little stand, not as nice as Castlehaven’s actually, and that was where coaching first started for me. Bournemouth was my first job in management, but Oxford City was my first as a coach.
I grew up playing my football in places like Hackney Marshes, which wasn’t fancy at all so, for me, Castlehaven’s facilities are good, they’ve got a really nice stand and a lovely pitch. There is a lovely feel to the club, the whole community is involved and what is great is that they come up as kids into the club and then stay with the club all their life.’
Coming from the world of professional football, the former Spurs and West Ham manager has been keen to learn more about the amateur ethos of the GAA.
Redknapp can also see similarities between the West Ham youth team and GAA clubs like Castlehaven.
‘Players must make so many great friends for all their lives because they stay with that club all the way from their early days,’ he said.
‘That’s been a lovely surprise, that people are so passionate about their club, that it’s “their” club for life.
‘I loved that because that’s been lost a lot in England now. Where I grew up as a kid in the East End and went to West Ham to play, every player came from within a five-mile radius of the ground, literally every player!
‘I lived in Poplar, which was ten minutes away on a bus. All the other players came from the same area too, all from the youth team. We didn’t buy players, every player when I was there was homegrown.
‘We were all local boys and we grew up loving and being part of the football club, and I can see the similarity here.
‘Castlehaven have kids who’ve come through their youth team into their first team and really have their hearts here.
‘There is nothing like having kids from the area, I think, and I had that in West Ham as a manager too.’
Redknapp added: ‘It’s amazing that GAA players are all working and playing. Some of them travelled 40 to 50 miles to training and when they turned up they weren’t like “oh I’m tired, I’ve been working all day”. They were straight in, no complaining. Their attitude to training was really top-class. They really are doing it for the love of the game.’