Marian Central reached into its past for a head football coach for the second time in four years.
In 2019, it was Darren Fortin, who played for legendary Hurricanes coach Don Penza when Marian won four Class 2A state championships in the 1980s.
This time, Marian athletic director Curtis Price picked a former Cane from much more recent history. Liam Kirwan, a two-way lineman and a 2013 Marian graduate, was announced as the Hurricanes’ new coach Thursday.
About 20 players, along with a handful of Marian teachers, met in the school’s auditorium as Price introduced Kirwan, who also will teach physical education.
At 27, Kirwan will be one of the youngest head coaches in the state.
“I’m so excited to be back because of what it means to me,” Kirwan said. “I can’t thank coach Price, [superintendent] Mr. [Mike] Shukis and coach Fortin enough.”
Fortin was 10-12 in his three seasons as coach and will remain a part of the Marian staff. Fortin works outside of the school at his regular job, and Price started his remarks by saying he felt it was important to have a coach in the building every day.
“[Kirwan] has a great pedigree and understands what it is to be part of the Marian family,” Price said. “Coach Fortin will still be a part of the staff. That’s how much he cares. He’s 100% behind this.”
Kirwan played at NCAA Division II St. Cloud State and D-III Loras College. He taught P.E. and was an assistant under coach John Holecek at Loyola, one of the top programs in the state, for five years.
Kirwan and his wife, Tara, were married in 2020. She also graduated from Marian in 2013 and was a high school and college volleyball player.
Kirwan hopes to draw from Holeck as he takes over as head coach, while likely also being the youngest coach on Marian’s staff. He also plans to reach out to former Northern Illinois University quarterback Jordan Lynch, who took over at Mount Carmel, one of the state’s most storied programs, when he had just turned 27.
“It’s been incredible [at Loyola],” Kirwan said. “I’m excited about the staff. We’re going to have a great staff, a lot of good guys, and we’ve had this conversation.
“Look, I’m 27 years old, I promise you everything I do here is meant for that is best for Marian Central, not best for Liam Kirwan. I’m going to be open to opinions. You have to trust me. I’m big on trust and being open and vulnerable. You can tell me I’m wrong. Everybody understands I’ve learned a lot from coach Holecek over at Loyola, and telling them my plan, everyone’s bought in so far.”