A COA family is coming to terms with the news one of their own has scooped a top job with Premiership titans Manchester United.
32-year-old Kieran McKenna has been named first team head coach under Jose Mourinho and will be tasked with organising and running first team training.
Kieran’s brother James, a fine footballer in his own right, was still wrapping his head around the news earlier this week. Kieran’s parents, Liam and Mary, own the Manor House Country Hotel.
“It’s brilliant. He’s been on an upward curve this five or six years. But getting a senior role like this a club the size of Man United is unbelievable. It came as a shock to all of us. We knew he was good at what he does, but none of us quite expected him be on the Man United first team’s radar this early.
“Mourinho’s has been at all the top clubs in Europe and he could have gone a lot of places to get a first team coach. For him and the club to single out Kieran as the right man to come in and work with the calibre of players he’s going to be working with, it’s just something that takes a while to sink in. ”
It’s a stellar rise for the Fermanagh man who left home aged just 15 to join Tottenham Hotspur to pursue of his dream of playing professional football.
He was a highly rated prospect at Spurs, his talent and dedication seeing him named reserve team captain. However chronic hip injury brought his playing career to an end at just 21.
McKenna turned what could have been a shattering blow into an opportunity. He immersed himself in a course in Sport Science at Loughborough before taking up a post as head analyst at the Spur’s newly opened youth academy.
After taking the club’s u18s to the 2015 FA Youth Cup semi-final McKenna was snapped up by Manchester United for their u18 team.
It’s a meteoric rise for the young man who is a past pupil of St Paul’s Irvinestown and St Michael’s Enniskillen.
Brother James says his parents couldn’t be prouder.
“They’re delighted. Mum and Dad are just over the moon.
“They’re very proud of him. Dad has been travelling over a lot to United games and watched Kieran in action.
“My mother mentioned the other day to me that, as hard as it was to let him leave home at 15 and wondering was it the right thing to do when he missed part of his childhood and the injuries he got, it’s all worthwhile now when they see where he’s ended up.”
But as a stalwart of the game himself, James knows his brother is taking on some massive challenges.
“For Kieran the hard work is only starting now. It’s a new challenge stepping away from youth football.
“He has to embrace senior football now and continue to make big strides if he wants to say there.
“There’s going to be high expectations next year at Man United, they have work to do to bridge the gap on Manchester City and Kieran will be hoping to play his part in doing that.
“I don’t think there’s any ceiling on where Kieran can go now, I think he has shown that.
“Things can go wrong very quickly in football for any manager or coach, but the way his career’s gone so far hopefully the sky’s the limit.”