Brian McEniff: Social media abuse played a part in Rory Gallagher walking away from Donegal job
BRIAN McEniff believes social media abuse levelled at Rory Gallagher played a part in him stepping down as Donegal senior football manager last night.
Former Donegal and Ulster boss McEniff was still surprised Gallagher left the post after three seasons in charge as he felt he had the ability to rebuild the senior team.
Donegal GAA’s official Twitter account broke the news just after 8pm, commenting: "Donegal GAA wish to confirm Rory Gallagher has stood down as senior manager. Our thanks to Rory...full statement to follow."
McEniff said: “I didn’t see it coming. I thought Rory would have stayed on. I really thought he would have stayed but the abuse that has taken place – and the chairman [Sean Dunnion] came out in the local papers to say the same – there is no place for that abuse in an amateur sport, or indeed any sport.
“The man has his business to run and he has his family – it’s not fair.”
McEniff, who had three spells as Donegal manager, added: “Expectations are always high in Donegal. It doesn’t help being an outside man because he needs to be that bit better than the local man.”
After an impressive NFL Division One campaign, Donegal were fancied to win an Ulster title this year. After dismissing Antrim in their opening round tie, they were hammered by Tyrone nine points.
They overcame Longford in the Qualifiers but worse was to follow when they were demoralised by Galway on 4-17 to 0-14 scoreline just 10 days ago.
Although Gallagher refused to be drawn on his intentions after the Galway defeat, he did say: “Whatever comes, comes. I’m around long enough to know that’s the nature of it.”
McEniff cited the high amount of players the Donegal senior team had lost over the last 12 months.
“It hasn’t been easy for him with the players that left the squad over the last 12 months or so – Eamonn McGee, Neil Gallagher, Anthony Thompson, Colm McFadden, Christy Toye, Rory Kavanagh and Odhran MacNaillais – they are players with vasts amounts of experience.
“Rory stepped in in difficult circumstances.”
While there were high hopes for Donegal’s U21 squad that clinched an Ulster title in imperious fashion this year, McEniff felt they need more time to become fully fledged senior players.
“Rory brought in a lot of players and we had a good League campaign but Championship football is a different story. It takes time to build a side. It’s taken Mickey Harte three or four years to build the side that he has now.”
Gallagher was a hugely influential part of the Donegal management team, led by Jim McGuinness, that won the All-Ireland title in 2012.
After a fall-out with McGuinness, Gallagher walked away in 2014 before becoming number one when the Glenties man stepped down.
“Rory is a good football person… When he wasn’t part of the backroom staff in 2014, it wasn’t good. It’s not going to be easy finding another manager.”
U21 boss Declan Bonner will be in the frame to replace Gallagher but it is understood he has expressed an interest in taking the U20 team next season.
Gallagher may well take some time out but it is not out of the question that he will be manager of his native Fermanagh in 2018 following the controversial exit of Pete McGrath.
Last night, former Donegal players Kevin Cassidy and Eamonn McGee tweeted their support for the outgoing Gallagher.
“In fairness to Rory I'd have probably done the same,” tweeted Cassidy. “If half the county is giving out about you then why bother try to bring them success!!”
McGee, who stepped down at the end of last season, wrote: “Sad to see Rory go, loved working with him. A born winner, passionate GAA man and so important to our All-Ireland win in 2012.”