A rebuild is needed at St Gall's: New manager Paddy Murray
NEW St Gall’s manager Paddy Murray believes he has assembled a backroom team capable of seeing the Falls Road club scale the highest peaks again.
Murray takes over from player/manager and former county ace Sean Kelly after the Milltown men bowed meekly out of this year’s county championship to Erin’s Own, Cargin at the semi-final stages.
Filled with serial medal-winners, 2019 seemed a year too long for a handful of the St Gall’s veterans – and Murray feels it’s time to give more of the club’s youth a chance to shine on the senior stage.
The former Antrim and St Gall’s goalkeeper has been coaching some of the club’s underage teams as well as managing cross-town neighbours Ardoyne Kickhams for the last two seasons.
“St Gall’s is a club that is going through a transition,” said Murray.
“I’ve been involved with the underage structures and I see the talent that is there and I wanted to be part of bringing that talent through to senior level.
“We’re now at a crossroads and I see it not as a crisis but an opportunity for the club to rebuild but also to challenge for county titles.
“It’s not a matter of thinking the club doesn’t have ambition around the championship because I fully believe the talent is there to compete but at the same time there has to be a clear plan to rebuild and it’s time we needed some transition in the team.”
There is a talented batch of the current St Gall’s senior squad who played in the 2006 and 2010 All-Ireland finals and have been incredible servants to the west Belfast club.
But the one-sided manner of the Cargin defeat was a wake-up call that younger legs are now needed to keep St Gall’s competitive over the next few seasons.
Murray has recruited former Tyrone Allstar defender Fay Devlin as one of his selectors alongside trainer Gavin McGeehan, who was an important figure in Derry’s ascent from the minor ranks in recent years.
On Devlin’s recruitment, Murray said: “I’ve been involved with organising underage games with Ardboe and Fay always has very well drilled teams. I’ve got to know him over the last few years. He’s no-nonsense and was tough footballer and they are the attributes I’m looking for.”
On McGeehan’s introduction, Murray feels the Ballinderry man is a perfect fit.
“Gavin is somebody from outside the club with a fresh pair of eyes and obviously Ballinderry have churned out some great coaches over the years and I’ve always had an admiration for the way they play football.”
Former St Gall’s senior manager Mickey Culbert and fellow Milltown men Paddy McShane and Collie McAllister will also form part of the new backroom team.
“We’re no longer at the top and we have to go through a transition,” Murray said. “We have to get St Gall’s back to where we feel they belong – competing for championships and competing with the best in Antrim.
“Antrim football is thriving at the minute and I would argue half a dozen clubs are now competing for the championship.
“There’s a big job at hand but it’s one I’m excited about. I’ve a team around me that are more able than me in getting the club going in the right direction.”
Murray also revealed how much of a wrench it was to leave Ardoyne Kickhams after two seasons.
He guided the north Belfast club to Division Two this season but they lost the Junior Championship final earlier this month to St Patrick’s Lisburn by a single point.
“I had a few sleepless nights over leaving Ardoyne,” he said. “Only it was my own club I would still be with Ardoyne. I’m very fond of Ardoyne and that’ll never change. I’ve a great bond with those players. The last two years have been a wee bit of a journey for us and it was brilliant, I have to say, I really enjoyed it.
“The Junior final did hurt but the longer view I had was getting them up a division. Moving from junior to intermediate was important to the club.
“I was looking forward to taking a few scalps in Division Two with them but there’s a structure there now and if the same people hang around they can do well.”