GAA Football

Who are the contenders to replace Damian McErlain as Derry manager?

Cahair O'Kane runs his eye over the contenders to replace outgoing Derry boss Damian McErlain...

Mickey Donnelly

CV: Current Derry U20 manager, winners of last year’s Ulster title and beaten finalists this year. A former Tyrone minor manager, with whom he won an Ulster and then reached an All-Ireland final. MacRory Cup winning boss with St Ronan’s Lurgan, and has two Down titles with Mayobridge.
Chances: Donnelly has a proven track record at schools and underage levels, and has sampled a bit of senior football at club level as well, managing the last Mayobridge team to win a Down title and taking Ardboe close in Tyrone. It’s understood that he’s interested and in the process of putting together a strong backroom team, but the optics of the U20s’ recent loss to Tyrone could work against him. His success in this process could depend on the strength of those around him.

Paul McIver

CV: Won a hatful of Down county titles with Kilcoo before stepping away last year. Previously a Tyrone championship winner with Dromore, and has managed Derry minors and under-21s as well as acting as a senior selector to his father Brian. Stepped away from Killyclogher earlier this year.
Chances: McIver has been among the favourites on the last three occasions the Derry job has come up, but has yet to really go after it. Won a Tyrone county title with Dromore and took them back to another final before enjoying great success in Kilcoo, where they were only narrowly short of an Ulster club title during his reign. Keen to be involved, but says he’s equally happy to join the right backroom team as to be manager himself – and will only go if he nails his own backroom down.

Liam Bradley

CV: Took Antrim from nowhere to an Ulster final in 2009, and had them playing Division Two football. Took his native Glenullin to a rare Derry SFC title two years previous. Currently in charge of Ballinascreen.
Chances: Famously said in 2015 that he wasn’t interested because “I don’t want to die while I am still a young man.” Yet ‘The Baker’ is continually linked with the post, and the emerging talent coming up behind the current team might pique his interest. He’s largely been around club jobs in Derry the last few years, and few would know the scene better. His own level of interest will determine how seriously the link is taken, and it seems unlikely he will go chasing it.

Tony McEntee

CV: Former two-time All-Ireland club winning boss with Crossmaglen who moved on to Mayo, where he spent two years in Stephen Rochford’s backroom team.
Chances: In a different life, McEntee could well have been the Down manager and well into an inter-county managerial career by now. But that didn’t come to pass and instead he ended up in the background in Mayo, where they were on the precipice of All-Ireland success but didn’t get over the line. McEntee is widely expected to pop up somewhere on the inter-county circuit in the near future, but Derry’s possible positioning in a ‘B’ championship next summer makes it seem an ill fit.

Mickey Moran

CV: The most decorated CV of all, from training Derry to their All-Ireland success in ’93 to managing them outright three times, as well as guiding Mayo to an All-Ireland final and Slaughtneil to three Ulster club titles. Currently in charge of Kilcoo.
Chances: Much of his inter-county work seems like it was from a previous life, but during that glittering time with Slaughtneil, Moran has shown his powers haven’t waned. Has adapted brilliantly to the modern game and his training methods and man-management have proven popular with players. But given the timing, both in terms of Kilcoo’s ambitions and his own managerial lifespan, it seems highly unlikely that Moran would give it any major consideration.

Johnny McBride

CV: A relative newcomer to management but made a big impression on The Loup in his one year in charge in 2017, and is a deeply respected figure within Derry from his playing days.
Chances: McBride was interested in the gig the last time it came up but withdrew before the interview process as it became apparent that Damian McErlain was the overwhelming favourite. There’s a chance that he could be convinced to go again, and he could pull in a team of respected figures alongside him in terms of a backroom. McBride is known to be a big players’ man and would want the conditions to be absolutely perfect before he would take it, which could be a potential stumbling block.

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