GAA Football

Who are the contenders for the Derry job?

Cahair O'Kane runs the rule over the primary contenders to replace Damian Barton...

Paul McIver is one of the front runners for the vacant Derry job. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Ballinderry Shamrocks
Current position: Kilcoo manager
CV: McIver managed Derry minors in 2012 and the same crop at under-21 in 2015. His father Brian, who would go on to become senior boss and now holds the Director of Football post, was alongside him during the minor spell.

His club career has been laced with success. Took Dromore to a county title in 2011 and back to the final the following year. Back-to-back Down titles with Kilcoo, and took them to last year’s Ulster club final where they lost to Slaughtneil.

What are his chances? In terms of a CV and as someone who is likely to be interested in the job, McIver has the strongest hand. His minor and under-21 teams didn’t win any trophies but his reign was the first building block in Derry restoring stability and respect at minor especially. His work with Kilcoo has improved a side that was already dominant in Down, and reaching successive Tyrone finals is no mean feat. One issue is that he could well be tied up with Kilcoo until late in the year, and Derry would no doubt like to have the issue sewn up early.

Will he be the next Derry manager? There’s every chance.



Damian McErlain has taken Derry minors to three straight Ulster finals. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Club: O’Donovan Rossa, Magherafelt
Current position: Derry minor manager
CV: Taking over from Richard Ferris in 2015, he quickly set about creating new standards. The first team he inherited was widely regarded as a good crop but his stamp was evident as they won Ulster for the first time since 2002, beating a Donegal team that was tipped for All-Ireland glory along the way. Now heading into his third straight Ulster minor final, the first time in the county’s history they have achieved that, and has impressed with the professionalism of his setup.

What are his chances? Damian McErlain will manage Derry. The only question is whether it’s now or some time in the future. There are arguments for both. If he held back and took the job three or four years down the line, when all those players have developed to the point of being ready for success, he might stand his best chance personally of winning trophies. But the iron is hot now.

Will he be the next Derry manager? If not the next, then the one after that.



Johnny McBride made great strides with his native Loup in 2016. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Club: St. Patrick’s, Loup
Current position: N/A
CV: Stepped straight into the inter-county game with Fermanagh under Malachy O’Rourke in 2011. Took Tyrone club Galbally the following year before going back to play again. He took over as manager in The Loup last season and guided a young and relatively unfancied team to the county final. They didn’t have enough for Slaughtneil but the methods he employed in improving his native club were impressive.

What are his chances? An outsider. There’s no question that he would command the respect of the players and would put together a strong backroom team but a relative lack of experience in management, and the fact that he hasn’t managed a Derry team at any level yet, could go against him.

Will he be the next Derry manager? No, but he’s one for the future.



Liam Bradley has been on the Oak Leaf radar for years after his work with Glenullin and Antrim. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Club: John Mitchel’s, Glenullin
Current position: Glenullin manager
CV: Bradley’s managerial journey really began when he guided his native Glenullin to the Holy Grail again in 2007.

The following autumn he was appointed as Antrim manager and would go on to take them into unchartered waters, guiding them to a first Ulster final in 39 years and into Division Two. Came back for a second term but left after one year. Went back into club management and helped defensively mould a young Claudy side that is now holding its own in senior football, and is back at the helm of Glenullin again this season.

What are his chances? Having been overlooked on several occasions in the past, Bradley ruled himself out of the running when the job last came up. On the prospect, he told The Irish News in 2015: “I don’t want to die while I am still a young man!” Bradley’s work with Antrim was overlooked by previous selection committees and perhaps feeling that the same thing would happen again, he decided to opt out of the process. After all that’s gone before, it seems unlikely that the Baker will put himself forward.

Will he be the next Derry manager? Doubtful.



Could Mickey Moran be tempted back for a fourth run at the Derry job?

Club: Watty Graham’s, Glen
Current position: Slaughtneil manager
CV: His first success came when he guided Omagh to a Tyrone senior title in 1988 and from there, he would go on to manage Derry three times already, as well as Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim.

Moran coached the Oak Leaf side that won the All-Ireland in 1993 and has had three stints of his own as boss, the most recent in taking them to an All-Ireland semi-final in 2004. Subsequently took Mayo to the final two years later and continued his love affair with the west of Ireland until ill health forced him out of the Leitrim gig in 2011. In returning to guide Slaughtneil to three Derry straight titles, two Ulsters and two All-Ireland finals he has bolstered his reputation.

What are his chances? If Mickey Moran wanted to go for the job again then it would be something that the Derry selection committee would have to consider very seriously. Not only is there the wealth of experience but he has also shown an admirable ability to adapt to the modern game through his incredible work with Slaughtneil. While this is likely to be his last season with the Emmet’s, it’s hard to see him stepping back into inter-county football at this stage of his career.

Will he be the next Derry manager? If he wanted to be, but that seems highly unlikely.



Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke's name is thrown into the hat when the Derry job comes up because of his 2003 success with Loup. Picture by Colm O'Reilly

Club: Derrylin O’Connell’s
Current position: Monaghan manager
CV: He will forever be loved in one tiny corner of the world along the waters of Lough Neagh. Guided the Loup to an Ulster title in 2003 to write his name into Oak Leaf folklore. That has been his one involvement in Derry football, though Oak Leaf fans remember all too well his influence on Fermanagh in 2008 when they ended Ulster dreams in an unforgettable semi-final. Gone on to win two Ulster titles with Monaghan and turn them into one of the country’s top teams over the past few years.

What are his chances? The chances would be entirely up to him and they are extremely slim. His name is basically on this list because every time the Derry job comes up, people get excited about the prospect of Malachy O’Rourke taking over. He signed a three-year deal with Monaghan last year that takes him up to 2019.

Will he be the next Derry manager? No.

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