Ten minutes before kick-off in the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday evening, a fully accredited Philly McMahon – dressed in the official Bohemians Club edition – made his way to a seat in the press box, made himself comfortable and opened a laptop.
For the next two hours as Bohs struck an impressive win over Greek youth PAOK in the first leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League third qualifying round, McMahon watched carefully, typed on his keyboard and entered data into a digital spreadsheet.
Periodically he passed information on to Derek Pender – one of Keith Long’s assistants – who in turn passed messages on walkie-talkies, presumably to the Bohs Bank. Bohs’ 2-1 win sits comfortably below any European result from the youngest league of Ireland club.
PAOK with its 13 national players – including the former playmaker of Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund, Shinji Kagawa – is now urgently dependent on the continued existence of European football for TV revenues and prize money.
The second leg next Thursday in Thessaloniki in front of the expected 25,000 fans is therefore guaranteed to be much tougher. It also falls just two days before Dublin’s All-Ireland semi-finals with Mayo.
“I would have to sit down with management and see if I missed a session or two if that would affect my chance of doing a job for the team,” McMahon revealed yesterday at the GAA’s start of the All-Ireland SFC series .
“It really will be there, I think. I have to sit down and chat, ask the question, ‘If I miss a workout or two, does it affect my role in what I do that day?’ “
It’s a delicate balance.
On the one hand, McMahon hasn’t played a minute of championship football this summer. On the flip side, he has been – in recent years – the player Dublin management sent in late in the biggest games when opposing teams brought up or repositioned a large and powerful man to force a goal.
Tommy Walsh. Aidan O’Shea.
Taller men than McMahon, but the kind he likes to deal with.
As for McMahon’s role with Bohemians, he was reluctant to go into details.
When asked that very question, the usually exuberant McMahon smiled and said simply, “It’s supposed to help the boys perform better.”
Pushing for details, he added – vaguely – “I’m there to try to give them all I can in terms of knowledge and experience and to get them from A to B in terms of performance.”
In May, when the story of McMahon’s connection with the Bohemians broke, the club made a brief statement confirming that he would work as a “first-team performance coach”.
It is a booming industry where athletes freely bring their experience and expertise to other sports.
When Bernard Dunne joined Jim Gavin’s Dublin football management team in 2013, his role as a “sports performance and lifestyle coach” was listed.
Kevin McManamon is currently in Tokyo as a ‘sports psychological advisor’ to the Irish boxers.
“Personally, I’ve always been interested in coaching people,” said McMahon.
“Of course, when I was 17 or 18 I started coaching people in the fitness industry, then started working with Mountjoy (prison) and working with young athletes. I’ve always been interested in people and understood how to get the best out of people.
“But one of the reasons I actually took the job at Bohs because I knew I would learn from the players.
“And every day you grow from young players, from old players, you learn, you are challenged.
“I take it from a personal perspective,” added McMahon. “When I try to help the Bohs boys improve their performance, I become more aware of how I feel or how I behave with the Dublin boys too.”