Chris Breen #StudentsRedefined

Fermanagh v Down - Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship First Round

Chris Breen’s career between the posts spanned 8 years from 2005 to 2013.  Upon his retirement and the birth of his daughter Niamh he made the mammoth decision to go back to education and study an MBA at DCU. This was an even bigger undertaking considering he had never studied at third level before.

A gentleman on and off the field, we were delighted to catch up with him at DCU and discuss his playing career and everything else around it.

“If you want a job done well, ask a busy man”. This saying definitely applies to Chris as he juggles a career, education and a young family.

“Currently I’m working in the financial services sector while also studying for a masters in business administration (MBA).  ”

It can be quite a daunting task to go back to education after being away from it for a while, but going back just after the birth of your first child must make a daunting decision even more so.

“At the time Niamh was born (July 2013) the email for the MBA came out from the GPA so I applied for it. I had just retired (from football) so I had a bit more time on my hands.  Being honest, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into at the time but  with the support of my wife Joanne, completing the MBA has been an experience that has equipped me with different skillsets, and  the opportunity to meet influential people from industry which is fantastic. I hope to bring what I’ve learned from their experiences to my own career.”

Chris’s career spanned 8 years for Fermanagh and it was quite a successful period for the Ernesiders.  

“There’s unbelievable pride in getting to represent your county. I was also the third goalkeeper in the family to play in goal for Fermanagh so that was brilliant too.”

Going into his second season since retirement, we asked Chris what the thing he missed most about being part of the county squad.

“The craic! While you do get that freedom back after you retire but you’d still miss the craic and the banter with the lads a couple of times a week.”

Nostalgia hasn’t tainted his view on being a county player, and he was quick to recognize the demands that are placed on your time throughout your career.

“Managing your time is definitely the hardest aspect of playing for your county.

It’s at the stage now where you have to make an excuse to be at training. It was ok for me because I had a 9 to 5.30 job, but a lot of players were working on sites and they’d still be at training that evening and train hard and I really respected that. The game is changing totally. One small thing I noticed was that when I started, the gym sessions were individual, nowadays these are supervised.”

As the GAA culture has changed, Chris believes that much of the pressures and expectations are being place on players by themselves.

“Players will always demand high standards of themselves and their teammates. One thing though that I should say is that we do it for the love of it, if not we wouldn’t do it otherwise.

Chris believes that while sport is important, balance should be paramount.

“For me, I feel more emphasis should be put on getting the right balance in your life, that’s the most important thing.”

Throughout his 8 years, Chris came closer than most in Fermanagh’s history of claiming an elusive Ulster title.  And while he had many great personal achievements, including only conceding two goals in championship for Fermanagh and never conceding in the Ulster championship, it was the team highlights he enjoyed most.  

2006 stood out as a year where Chris felt Fermanagh football was right in the top tier, competing with the best at the time.

“It was unreal to be beating Tyrone and Dublin in Brewster Park, running Kerry close in Killarney and then running Mayo close in McHale Park.  They were great days for Fermanagh football and it was great for us to be at that level.

Every footballer and hurler throughout the country may unfortunately have regrets or disappointments upon retirement, and the one disappointment that stuck out most was not claiming an Ulster title, especially in 2008.

“If I was to look back on it, not winning an Ulster championship was very hard to take.  We were so close, particularly against Armagh in 2008, so that was unbelievably disappointing.”

Chris was lucky to play in an era with truly great players such as Marty McGrath and Ryan McCluskey, but one player was and still is close to the heart of the Fermanagh netminder.

“Different players brought different things, but for myself Barry Owens was so important at full back.  You could always rely on him for protection and he earned huge respect throughout the country.  When you look at what he’s gone through as well and come back from, you’d have even more respect for the man.”

Retired from football, rearing a family and just finishing up his MBA at DCU, we asked Chris where he’d like to be in 10 years time from now.

“I’m hoping to build a successful career for myself and my family.  In football, I’d like to be still involved with the club in some capacity, I don’t see why I couldn’t still be playing! 

Beyond that, I’ll just want me and my family to be happy.”

We’d like to sincerely thank Chris for taking the time to speak to us and we wish him every success in education, his career and most importantly in his family life.

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