Back in the Hive

New Concordia Football Head Coach Mickey Donovan Hopes to Return Stingers to their Glory Days

  • Concordia’s new head coach Mickey Donovan looks on during the CFL regional combine at the Stinger Dome on Wednesday. The Stingers hired Donovan in February.  Photo Concordia Stingers

  • Photo Dave Weatherall

In 2003, linebacker Mickey Donovan helped lead the Concordia Stingers football team to a 7-1 record and an appearance in the Dunsmore Cup, the provincial championship game. Eleven years later, he’s been tasked with doing it again—this time, as the team’s head coach.

The ink has yet to dry on his new contract, signed just a month ago, but already Donovan is hard at work getting his new players into fighting shape for the upcoming season, too busy to take in the magnitude of his new position.

“To be quite honest with you, I haven’t really had much of a chance to sit down and even think about that,” said the first-time head coach.

“There’s so much to do right now and the stuff I’ve been focusing on is the plays, the team and what could make us better.

“I think when it starts to slow down a little, that’s when it’ll probably hit me.”

Concordia director of recreation and athletics Patrick Boivin and the rest of the Stingers brass went through 36 different applications before settling on Donovan in February.

The position opened up after longtime coach Gerry McGrath retired in October.

A self-proclaimed player’s coach and caring individual, Donovan has been handed the reigns to the Stingers with the hopes of bringing Concordia football back to its winning ways.

“I want to win,” said Donovan. “Not just for me—it’s for the university, and for the kids that are here.

“I can tell you all my memories about playing here at Concordia, and how well we did. I want the kids to be able to do that too when they leave.”

Though he’s still just settling into his new office at the Loyola campus, Donovan’s passion for the game and his alma mater is already rubbing off on his new players.

“He’s a very intense coach,” said linebacker Mikael Charland, who’s entering his third season with the team.

“He’s very dedicated to the team and to his players. When he gives a speech […] it brings everybody up. We always end up having a really good practice.”

Donovan, 33, takes over a Stingers football program that is coming off an 0-8 campaign and hasn’t had a winning season since going 5-3 in 2008—the last time they made it to the provincial championship.

It marked the end of an era for the Stingers, who won their only Dunsmore Cup in 1998 and made the provincial final five more times in the ensuing decade.

But Donovan won’t only be looking to lead the Stingers back to their glory days—he also longs for academic success.

“We’re going to work hard day in and day out,” Donovan said.

“We’re going to give everything that we have when we’re on the field and when we’re in the classroom and in the weight room. By doing that, we’re going to be better than what we were before.”

It’s a big reason why Donovan was chosen for the head-coaching job.

“He really understands today’s student-athlete,” Boivin said.

“He’s not that far out from being one himself, but has nonetheless managed to accumulate a number of years of experience even though he was essentially playing about 10 or 11 years ago.”

Donovan, a native of Laconia, New Hampshire, hung up his maroon and gold jersey in 2004 after a decorated three-year career with the team that saw him earn two-time Quebec all-star and one-time All-Canadian honours.

Donovan was also twice named the Quebec conference’s most outstanding defensive player of the year and won the Canadian Interuniversity Sport’s President’s Trophy for best defensive player in 2004.

After catching on with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2005, a knee injury brought an abrupt end to Donovan’s playing career.

He then returned to New Hampshire where he took a job cleaning boats for his stepfather-in-law’s company.

After a stint as a coaching intern at the University of New Hampshire in 2006, Donovan eventually moved on to Western University in 2007 for his first full-time coaching position, coaching linebackers and special teams.

In November 2011 Donovan returned to Quebec, taking a job as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach with McGill University, which was coming off back-to-back winless seasons.

The Redmen won three games and made the playoffs in Donovan’s first season in 2012, repeating the feat again this past year with a 3-5 record.

However, Stingers football, and the team’s downward spiral in recent years, stayed on Donovan’s mind.

“Improving [McGill] and seeing Concordia going in the wrong direction—not knowing what Coach McGrath’s plans were, man, I was thinking about it every day, coming back [to Concordia],” said Donovan.

With winter training camp underway, a season with high expectations from players, management and Donovan himself awaits. All sides feel that a turnaround for the Stingers is on the horizon.

“He needs to instill his culture into the team,” Boivin said.

“He needs to infuse this team with a sense of pride and a sense of ownership of who they are as Stinger athletes. I think we’ll be a better team both tactically and I think just from a roster perspective.”

“For sure I expect us to have a better season than last year,” Charland said.

“The chemistry of the team is pretty [good]. The coaches are giving a lot of attention to the players, which makes us play better together since we know each other better.”

“I think we can have a successful year,” said Donovan.

“I do believe in the kids that are here. To turn it around right away, I’m not going to say that we can’t do it.”

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