Corlough man McGovern making waves with Celtic

Soccer interview

Kevin Óg Carney

Mid-March, 2021, and it’s derby day in the east end of Glasgow. The green and blue are about to go at it like stags butting in the glen and Corlough native David McGovern has a ringside seat for the game.

Convid-19 restrictions means that McGovern is one of less than about 60 people in attendance at a match that would normally be watched by some 60,000 at Paradise.

It’s Rio without the carnival though; O’Connell Street without the parade. The title race has already been won by the visitors, leaving Celtic hanging onto their pride like a drowning man.

Celtic float like a butterfly in the Old Firm game but never manage to sting like a bee. A one-all draw is the end-result.

Within a couple of hours of the final whistle, McGovern clocks off, disappointed with the draw but satisfied that he has put in a decent shift. And for him shifts don’t come any better than a shift as first team physio with Celtic.

“I suppose throughout my time at school my idea of a dream job was working for Celtic in some capacity,” 34-year old McGovern tells the Anglo-Celt. “But when I travelled as a supporter to see them play in my younger years, I never thought that I’d eventually be working at the club,” says 34-year old McGovern.

The true blue Cavan underage medallist landed the job he always wanted when he joined Celtic in November 2012, initially as a sports rehabilitator, working day to day with the reserve squad.

Son of Michael and Bernadette (nee Callaghan) McGovern of Tonlagee Lower, Corlough and brother of Barry (Dublin-based electrician) and Kevin (San Francisco-based mechanical engineer), the Hoops die-hard is inclined to tip the forelock to Dame Fortune in detailing his rise up the educational and career ladder.

However, the truth is that the longer McGovern shoots the breeze, the more accurate the evidence. It some becomes clear that his success is more self-generated than hatched by Lady Luck.

Like most jobs worth getting, the Celtic number was one McGovern had to work hard to finally land it. In truth, over the course of some seven years he had to demonstrate the fabled resourcefulness of his home club Corlough, the tenacity of a Sherpa and the steely determination of a Dervish to finally link up with the bhoys.

Having brought his studies to a close in 2012 with not one but two degrees in his back pocket, the then London-based McGovern wasn’t long on the jobs market when he received an application form from a close friend. It was for a post with Celtic’s reserve team. His 10 hour trek north from the English capital to Glasgow would become the hors d’oeuvre before the entree.

“I hadn’t seen the advertisement (for the reserve team job) and didn’t know anything about it,” McGovern explains.

“I had done several interviews for the NHS (National Health Service) but my heart was set on getting a job in sport. When I think back, my friend could have looked at the advertisement and not thought about it again. Luckily for me, he forwarded it onto me.”

After a four-year stint as physio to Celtic’s reserves, he gained promotion and began working with the first-teamers in 2016. Over the years, he has worked under four first team-managers, Neil Lennon, Ronny Delia, Brendan Rogers, Lennon (second time around) and, in the last few weeks, interim manager John Kennedy.

While speculation mounts that another Irishman, in the shape of Roy Keane, is set to become the next permanent Celtic boss, McGovern prefers to keep his counsel about what the future holds for him:

“New, in-coming managers generally prefer to bring in their own backroom staff but quite a few times, the people in the medical department who are already at a club are kept on and that has fortunately been the case with me at Celtic when there has been a change of manager.

“I don’t know what lies ahead for me but from my experience at Celtic and from what I know of things that happen at other clubs, the tendency is to maintain some continuity in the medical area when a new boss comes in.

“If it’s left up to me,  I plan to stay at Celtic. I enjoy the work even though the demands of the job are very full-on. There’s lots of weekend and night time work and it’s a very responsible role.

“With professional soccer, work can take you all around the place but for the foreseeable future, I’d like to think I’ll be in Glasgow. That’s not something that is set in stone though,” adds the boyfriend of Donegal lass Sinéad Boyle.

Given his experience at Celtic and his well-heeled educational career, McGovern (who also dabbles as current Assistant Secretary of Glasgow Gaels GAA club) is likely to be a wanted man should his time with the Hoops be guillotined by the in-coming new manager or by his own hand.

The experience he has garnered under four different, highly-regarded managers is firmly complemented by his educational attainments; even if they have come via a circuitous route.

After “underperforming” and gaining “a below average” 300 point Leaving Cert at Ballinamore (Leitrim) Secondary School, the would-be full-time Celtic employee went to Cavan College of Further Studies (now Cavan Institute) where he studied sports therapy and massage.

A Diploma (2004-2006) from Cavan was subsequently added to by an honours degee (Sports Rehabilitation and Injury Prevention) from Middlesex University between the years 2006 and 2009.

“After graduating in 2009 I was at a crossroads,” McGovern explains. I toyed with the idea of going travelling but instead I decided to study for a physiotherapy degree at the University of East London and I got it in 2012. In hindsight, I think the fact that I had that second degree under my belt made a big difference when it came to getting the job at Celtic.

“For a fella who didn’t even bother to fill out a CAO form and who looked to be heading for a building site, I suppose, looking back, you could say that I’ve surprised myself.

“Then again, I worked hard over the years to get the diploma and two degrees so maybe you make your own luck.

“I went the long way around to get my dream job but you have to be determined and I’m glad I stuck the course.”

Or should that be courses!

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