“It doesn’t feel like a tap of work'
Something appears to be stirring in Doon GAA club. Firstly, former St Brigid’s and Roscommon football star Frankie Dolan has been appointed as their adult team’s manager.
And in a further sign of Doon’s intent this year, local man Damon Rohan is fulfilling the role of the club’s official personal trainer and nutrition coach. Having graduated with an Arts degree in English and History, Damon has effortlessly moved into the world of fitness and nutrition.
When Damon embarked on his degree in Dublin City University, the plan was to go into teaching but he has since taken a detour on life’s journey.
“I didn’t see myself going into the classroom straight away. Maybe later on I’ll settle down into it. I can go back and do a Master’s in Education any time,” said Damon, adding that it’s a possibility for further down the line.
A native of Clonaderig near Ballinahown, Damon discovered his passion for fitness during his time in DCU and it has grown since.
“It doesn’t feel like a tap of work when I’m doing it, as it just comes naturally to me. I absolutely love it,” Damon said.
“When I was college, I was going to the gym a lot of the time and I was trying to get other lads to go as well. I was always reading up about fitness and trying to learn more about it. I ended up doing programmes for fellas and I wasn’t even qualified at that stage. But lads were getting great results and I realised that I’m actually alright at this.
“In my last year of my degree, I did a personal training course and I pursued it more after I graduated. I enjoy working with people and helping them get moving and improving their fitness.”
Damon explains that his current role with Doon came about through talking to club registrar Seamie Egan. “Seamie asked me if I’d be interested in doing a few things with the lads on the football team. I said ‘of course I would’ as it’s local and my family has been involved with the club,” Damon said.
Damon has played for the club but, by his own admission, he “wasn’t stuck to it”. College commitments and other things took precedence. “I hadn’t prioritised it but since I’m back home now full time, I will be putting more time into it.”
The 23-year-old intends to play with the club this year when games resume, in addition to his advisory role on fitness and nutrition.
The arrival as team manager of Frankie Dolan, an All-Ireland club medal winner with St Brigid’s in 2013, has been a major boost to Doon.
“It has given the lads a great lift,” said Damon, pointing to Dolan’s knowledge and experience from competing at a high level.
“I’m available to back the lads up with knowledge on nutrition and training. I’m trying to tighten up a few things to get the lads match fit, so that they’re at the level we want when we’re actually back playing.”
Last year, many club players struggled with motivation due to the Covid-19 enforced ban on collective training and matches. Doon were no different in that regard. In 2019, Doon won the Offaly junior football title, but things don’t go well in 2020 and the west Offaly club went back down from the intermediate ranks.
“Some lads are within five 5kms and have access to the pitch. But nobody has a home gym really, so it’s just about doing what we can do at the moment,” said Damon.
“Most people are at a lull these days with motivation, with the lockdown going on so long. But if lads do the work on their fitness now, it will pay dividends when we get back to playing.”
The idea is for players to have a base of fitness when collective training is permitted to resume. “Every pre-season you get lads coming back who have ballooned up for whatever reason after time off from training. It’s about getting people moving and achieving a baseline of fitness,” Damon said.
“I didn’t think of GAA when I started doing this. I was working on very basic things for weight loss and muscle gain and body composition goals. Then I started getting more educated in strength and conditioning and the performance side of things. It’s something that really interests me - essentially how someone can become a complete athlete.
“I would have got involved with helping a few lads from Castledaly and Doon, and I started doing sport-based programmes for the past year or so,” Damon added.
Damon’s mentor is Mullingar man Shane Flynn, who runs NGS Fitness and is a footballer with the St Loman’s club, with whom he has achieved Westmeath SFC success. When required, Damon turns to Shane for advice and support.
“Shane is fairly ahead of the game in terms of what he offers. He’s on the ball and he always brings something different to fitness and training. I’m always interested in investing in myself to be able to provide the best service possible,” said Damon, who can be contacted via his website and on social media.
Damon is a son of Annette and the late Michael ‘Rocky’ Rohan, well known for running Rohan Agri-Supplies in Ballinahown. A very popular local figure in the Doon and Ballinahown areas, Michael died suddenly in 2005.
The ‘Rocky’ moniker came from when Michael worked as a lorry driver. “The drivers all got code names and he got Rocky and it sort of stuck with him,” recalls Damon of his late father. “People would call him that before they would say Michael or Mick. Rocky is even on his grave and some people used to call him Rocker as well.”
Damon’s sister Tanya is now the manager of Rohan Agri-Supplies, while his sister Danielle runs a beautician business in Ballinahown. Damon also works in the family business. “I do a bit of everything, helping out with paperwork and so on,” he said.
Damon is a first cousin of double Paralympics gold medallist Mark Rohan, an inspirational figure for so many sports people across the Midlands and indeed much further afield.
Naomh Ciaran and Offaly footballer Ellee McEvoy is another first cousin. In 2019, Ellee won an All-Ireland intermediate medal with Naomh Ciaran. So clearly there is plenty of sporting talent within the extended Rohan clan.
Damon’s involvement in fitness has seen him get involved in a number of events in aid of worthy causes.
In 2018, Damon organised a 12-hour endurance event hosted by CrossFit Croí (based in Moydrum Business Park, Athlone) as a fundraiser for Pieta House. The event consisted of doing the following: a 1-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and another 1-mile run, all whilst wearing a 20-lb weighted vest, and repeating that circuit for the full 12 hours. Damon was the only participant to complete the full 12 hours. The event raised over €5,500 for Pieta House.
Damon praised the “outstanding help and support” from CrossFit Croí in that venture, and he has been involved in fundraising for mental health organisations since then.
Doon GAA chairman Michael Moran said Damon’s involvement with the club will give both playing and non-playing members “an opportunity to work with a professional coach if they wish”.
Doon GAA registrar Seamie Egan said: “The facilities at Doon GAA, especially the walking track, have become a great outlet for the community throughout the Covid pandemic. Increasing our membership base is an ongoing process and having Damon on board enhances that process.”
Doon PRO Philip Keegan added: “We are all delighted to have Damon working with us on our conquest to win silverware this year and hopefully future years."