Damian Barton's reign as Derry manager ends
DAMIAN Barton’s reign as Derry manager came to an end last night after the county board opted not to extend his tenure.
The Newbridge clubman was originally appointed for a two-year term which ended last Saturday after defeat in a thrilling Qualifier against Mayo, which went to extra-time.
Barton confirmed to The Irish News earlier yesterday that he was prepared to remain in charge next season but county officials last night effectively took the decision to end his reign.
Following a county board meeting, a statement from Derry GAA read: “In September 2015, Damian Barton was ratified by Coiste Chontae Dhoire as Derry senior football manager for an agreed period of two years.
“We would like to sincerely thank Damian, his management and backroom teams and all the players who have represented their county during this period.”
The statement added: “Nominations for the position of Derry senior football manager will be sought from our clubs in the coming weeks.”
Barton’s future was the subject of speculation throughout a topsy-turvy season, but the spirited performance of his side in Castlebar appeared to have swayed his own mind towards staying.
“I’ve been there for two years and I’m sure there’ll be some sort of assessment of those two years by the county board,” he told The Irish News yesterday.
“People may already have been chewing over who may be in charge next year and whether or not we’re going to be afforded the opportunity.
“But we’ll see. Whatever happens, I hope it’s for the betterment of Derry football. A lot of challenges have been faced over the last couple of years, much has been said about the fact that we’ve used 70 players and we’ve come out the other end with what I think is a credible enough performance against one of the top teams.
“The basis of that came from the fact that the squad really gelled together and showed a huge amount of respect for each other. Whenever you have that it’s the basis of something and we saw that on Saturday.”
During his two years the 1993 All-Ireland winner took the Oak Leafers to within kicks of the ball of beating 2016 All-Ireland semi-finalists Tipperary and finalists Mayo and developed a number of promising young players.
But Derry were relegated to Division Three, lost heavily to Tyrone for the second year running and were without the services of a number of experienced senior players.
The Oak Leafers came agonisingly close to pulling off the shock of the summer so far when they pushed serial All-Ireland finalists Mayo all the way last Saturday.
James Kielt had a difficult chance to win the game in injury-time before Derry ran out of legs in extra-time.
“The fact that we did come close gives you an idea that our preparation was right,” said Barton.
“Mentally, we believed we could win the game and we could have done it in normal time but in extra-time energy and a bit of depth in the squad in relation to experience caught up with us.
“But it was a fantastic experience and if you had a two-tiered Championship and you were never in a position to go to MacHale Park with 12-13,000 people there you would miss it. It put a different perspective on all the talk about a two-tier system.
“It was a game we could have won but we ran out of legs and Conor McAtamney’s dubious black card was very costly.”