New Derry boss Damian McErlain hopes to bring through minor talent in senior role

Damian McErlain has been ratified as derry senior football manager Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

NEW Derry manager Damian McErlain feels that the strength of the three minor teams he has overseen can bolster the strength of the senior county set-up during his tenure.

The Magherafelt man was confirmed as the Oak Leaf county’s new senior football boss at a county committee meeting in Owenbeg last night, where the clubs ratified the recommendation of the selection panel.

He has been handed a three-year term after fighting off competition from Peter Doherty, who was the only other interviewee for the post.

Having guided the county’s minors to the last ever All-Ireland final at the U18 grade, where they will face a Kerry side chasing a fourth straight title, McErlain will bring his existing backroom team into the senior job with him.

That includes experienced coach Killian Conlan. The Ballinderry man was also the coach for the last Oak Leaf minor team to reach an All-Ireland final in 2007, where he worked alongside club-mate Niall Conway.

Another member of the backroom was also heavily involved that day ten years ago. Gavin McGeehan was the barnstorming full-forward on that team and at just 27, he is the youngest member of the new management set-up.

McErlain, Conlan (below) and McGeehan were involved in coaching at development squad level before they moved up to the minor job. Former long-serving Derry goalkeeper Barry Gillis will also come in as goalkeeping coach, while Armagh native John McMahon will continue as the strength and conditioning coach having been brought in by the county last year.

In a statement released last night, McErlain called his appointment “an honour” but said that all his focus will be on the minor final for the next three weeks.

“On behalf of myself and the management team, we are delighted and honoured to be entrusted with working with our county’s senior footballers for the next three years.

“We are massively looking forward to working with the county’s best players and the other stakeholders involved in creating the environment to fulfil the potential that’s within Derry football.

“We know the talent that exists within the county and we’ve developed three strong minor teams to further bolster that. We now need to ensure that we have the right environment for the players to develop further.

“We’ve a big couple of weeks ahead with the All-Ireland minor final to look forward to, and we’ll get down to work with the senior job once that occasion has passed. Until then it’s all about Derry minors trying to win an All-Ireland title and nothing else,” said the new Oak Leaf boss.

He has led the minors to two Ulster titles in three years, the first of them in 2015 bridging a 13-year gap to their previous success at the grade, a year in which they went on to win the All-Ireland.

All-conquering Kerry have ended their All-Ireland hopes in the last two years and it’s the Kingdom they will face again in the September 17 decider following a gripping semi-final win over Dublin at the weekend.

“Over the past decade, through their work with our minor and other underage squads, Damian and his team have demonstrated their ability and commitment to creating an environment which helps players achieve their potential,” said a county board statement.

“We look forward to working in partnership with the new senior management team as they help progress Derry inter-county football into the future.”

His appointment continues a run of internal appointments by Derry. McErlain is the eighth consecutive Oak Leaf native to be handed the reins since former Dublin midfielder Brian Mullins, who guided the county to its last senior Ulster title 19 years ago.

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