Three Irish coaches hope to make the grade in the dugouts after they were treated to a management masterclass by St Mirren boss Danny Lennon.
Shane Keegan, Johnny Glynn and Dave Mackey visited Paisley as part of their UEFA Pro-Licence course.
The Emerald Isle trio were given behind-the-scenes access to St Mirren and enjoyed sit-down talks with Lennon as he explained how the Paisley club is run.
The course – which tests the candidates’ understanding of the various aspects involved in club management, such as finance and contract negotiations, as well as their coaching credentials – also saw them quiz Buddies chief executive Brian Caldwell, youth coach Frazer Robertson and staff from St Mirren’s community department.
But Wexford Youths gaffer Keegan insists it was chewing the fat with Lennon which produced the tastiest lessons.
He told Express Sports: “The people at St Mirren have been excellent with us.
“We have met pretty much everyone there is to meet here. We’ve sat down with all the relevant people and had a chat about how the different parts of the club are run.
“It has been a fantastic insight for us and we have been treated so well.
“Danny has given us a lot of his time too. We sat down with him for about two hours and talked tactics, formations, man-management, all those sorts of things that we like to discuss. It was great.”
Saints boss Lennon sat his own Pro-Licence course in Malaga, Spain, while he was in charge at previous club Cowdenbeath.
And the Paisley gaffer has often spoken about how important gaining the diploma – which is required by anyone hoping to manage in Europe’s top leagues – was to his own development.
Lennon was happy to invite the three Irishmen to join him in the St Mirren Park dressing room ahead of his team’s SPL clash with St Johnstone last month as he explained his tactics for the visit of the Perth side.
Mackey, who coaches the kids team at Irish top-flight side Bray Wanderers, said: “Danny understands what we are going through as he has done this same course himself.
“He knows the rationale behind it and was very supportive.”
Keegan, who hopes to lead his side back to the League of Ireland Premier Division when their First Division campaign gets under way in March, added: “Danny took us into the dressing room before the St Johnstone game and ran us through the same presentation he had given his players before kick-off.“We bounced a lot of ideas off of him and we can now take those back and try to implement them at home.”
The Irish visitors have so far completed eight modules from the 10-part course and expect to receive their Pro-Licence before the end of the Scottish season in May.
But Glynn, who is head of youth development at second-flight Mervue United, admits achieving top marks is a tough task.
He said: “The Pro-Licence is designed to test your understanding of the overall running of a club, not just the coaching side.
“It aims to give you a broader picture of what management is about – how the club runs, what you need to know about the financial side, sports science, player conditioning and so on.
“The course concludes with us writing a thesis about the running of the club.
“It’s not so much an analysis of the club but more a demonstration that you understand the structure of the club and why it is set up as such.
“It’s an intense course.”
The three-day visit to Paisley was organised by the Football Association of Ireland as they hope their part-time coaches can learn from St Mirren’s professional approach.
The Buddies have been praised for placing a focus on rearing their own stars, with talented youngsters such as Kenny McLean, Marc McAusland and Paul McGinn all graduating to the first team in recent years.
Mackey said: “St Mirren was a very good fit for us as it is a club of similar size to the ones we work for back in Ireland.“Saints are a good model for us to work off of and try to implement certain things at our own clubs.”
Keegan added: “The game in Ireland is coming on. We have two senior leagues – the Premier Division and First Division.
“The Premier is coming along fairly well and we even had Shamrock Rovers doing well in the Europa League a few years back as they knocked out Partizan Belgrade.
“The national team played Greece recently and, by the end of the match, seven of the 11 guys on the park had played League of Ireland football. You could never have said that 10 years ago, so there is a lot of talent in the Premier.
“Johnny and I, however, work in the First Division and that is unfortunately known as the ‘graveyard’. There is talk of it going to a seven-team set-up, which would just be crazy.”
With money tight, following the global economic downturn, copying St Mirren’s lead and focusing on youth has never been more important.
Mackey added: “The economy in Ireland hasn’t helped the game and we also suffer from the fact we are exporting all our best players as soon as they emerge. The challenge then is to replenish that talent when it leaves.
“The fact there are so many players moving to England and Scotland shows there are good players coming through.
“You have the likes of Kevin Doyle, Shane Long and James McClean all moving to the Premiership from League of Ireland clubs and doing well and then there is Paddy McCourt at Celtic and Niall McGinn at Aberdeen here in Scotland who have done the same.
“We at Bray are a lot like St Mirren – we have to keep producing good players of our own because we just don’t have the money to buy them in.”