MANAGING FINE Alan Costello from Carramore is pictured giving a team talk to the Tinahely team he manages in Wicklow. They won a County Intermediate championship in 2018. Pic: Dave Barrett
Former Mayo footballer Alan Costello is making a name for himself in Wicklow
ONE Mayo man in particular took a lot of pleasure from watching Kilmacud Crokes win their eighth Dublin senior club football championship title recently.
That man was former Mayo footballer Alan Costello, from Carramore, who just so happened to have coached a dozen of the Kilmacud team that beat St Jude’s in that Dublin decider.
All 12 of those Crokes players were past-pupils of Costello’s at St Benildus College in Dublin, where he has been teaching and coaching Gaelic football since 2002.
In fact, the former Mayo Under-21 captain has been making big waves on the coaching scene on the east coast of Ireland recently, and earlier this year he managed Wicklow side, Tinahely, to their first Intermediate county title since 2007.
They went 17 games unbeaten during the season and bounced back to senior football just 12 months after being relegated.
Costello cut his coaching teeth after moving to Greystones, where he still lives, and getting involved with Wicklow underage squads.
He then guided Éire Óg to county Division 1A and Division 1 League titles, as well as two successive narrow defeats in the Wicklow senior championship semi-finals.
Throw in coaching the 2018 UCD Freshers football team, alongside his old Mayo team-mate, Austin O’Malley this year, and you can see how the ambitious Costello is building quite the CV for himself.
His coaching philosophies, he says, stem from working with some of the sharpest coaching and management minds over the years; the likes of Mickey Whelan, Pat Gilroy and the late Dave Billings in Dublin, along with Mayo men such as JP Kean, Billy Fitzpatrick and Kevin McStay.
He also draws on others codes such as basketball, Rugby League and soccer to keep things fresh and interesting from a player perspective.
His scale of success with Tinahely was judged by something more abstract than winning.
“Keeping the training interesting and creating the right environment was the barometer of how we were doing, which showed in the numbers we had training,” he said.
“We always had big numbers, it never dropped under 25 all year.
“We started back training on January 2 and after some initial work we had our first internal game, reds v whites, and there were about 50/60 people at the game. For me, it proved there was a bit of genuine interest there; maybe it was an element of this Mayo man coming down and wanting to see what he was going to bring.
“But it was a wonderful year and there was wonderful scenes after the County Final win, lots of families and brothers on the team, and it meant an awful lot to the place.
“I have to say they celebrated in style and they were very grateful for all the work that was injected all year.”
Costello has also tried to instill a different culture into Wicklow football and move it away from what it’s better known for.
“Wicklow football in many ways in quite tribal,” he said. “It’s a very physical type of football down there, very little between Intermediate and Senior, it’s a good standard.
“Over the years it’s probably got a bad press over discipline and that was something that I really wanted to deal with.
“I think Mayo football was always a good brand of football, so the discipline was an area I wanted to address, which meant looking at the values, character and humility within the group as well.”
COMING away from a conversation with Alan Costello you soon realise how articulate, ambitious and motivated he is. He’s also currently studying for a Diploma in Sports Science and Sports Psychology, and is still an avid follower of Mayo football, along with another Dublin-based Mayo exile Seán Connolly.
But then again, where would Alan leave it?
His father, Michéal, won two Mayo minor and Under-21 medals with Carramore; while his uncle, Tony, was a Hogan Cup medal winner with St Colman’s College in 1977. Another uncle, PJ Coen, won three county senior championship medals with Hollymount, and his first cousin is Mayo footballer Stephen Coen, who plays alongside the other Costello brothers with Hollymount/Carramore.
Alan’s wife, Michelle, is a native of Loughrea and played volleyball at a high level.
It’s no surprise then to hear that their four-year-old daughter, Sophie, can already kick with both feet!
Costello played football at the highest level too, lining out for Mayo at all grades, including a couple of Senior National League appearances.
When he took the decision to transfer from his home club to St Vincent’s in Dublin he was (and still is) the first to admit that it was a move done with the intentions of ‘maximising his potential’ as a footballer.
He had previously availed of the ‘dual-club rule’ that allowed third-level students represent their home club and their college in the Dublin Senior Championship, winning one with UCD in 2001.
But after leaving third-level education, and landing a teaching job in St Benildus College, he took the decision to make his move permanent. Of course it wasn’t an easy one, but it worked out well.
He captained St Vincent’s for three years under the legendary Micky Whelan, before winning Dublin, Leinster and All-Ireland club medals in 2007, playing alongside the likes of Diarmuid Connolly, Mossy Quinn, Ger Brennan and Pat Gilroy, with the legendary Kevin Heffernan alongside Whelan on the sideline.
“There was always a joke between the lads at Vincent’s that I was probably the first culchie to be captain of Vincent’s,” laughed Costello. “But it was a huge honour to be given it by Mickey Whelan.
“My fondest memories are playing with the Carramore lads and the Hollymount/Carramore lads at underage, nothing beats playing with your own club. I was going up and down for a few years with Carramore, but I really wanted to play at the highest level and squeeze the towel dry with my own career.
“So I was very privileged to play at the highest level in Dublin. Losing the 2006 County Final was a tough pill to swallow, but going all the way and winning the All-Ireland the following year was a huge achievement for me personally.
“I know not many people are lucky enough to do it.”
IN part two of our interview with Alan Costello, he gives his thoughts on James Horan’s return to manage Mayo.