‘When’s the next one?’ Tyrone will always strive for more success says manager Brian Dooher

GAA managers with jobs are becoming a rarity agrees Red Hand boss Dooher

Tyrone joint manager Brian Dooher on his own without Feargal Logan in front of the Tyrone substitutes.
Tyrone joint-manager Brian Dooher looks on as the Red Hands clash with Derry at Celtic Park. Picture Margaret McLaughlin (Margaret McLaughlin Photography )

IN this era of full-time county managers you wonder how and when Brian Dooher ever gets a minute.

The working hours of his day are consumed by his many responsibilities as Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer and much of rest must be absorbed by being one half of the Tyrone senior management team.

Throw in family matters and it’s fair to say Dooher can’t have much spare time to work on his golf handicap.

As an accountant, the other half of the Tyrone management – Feargal Logan – is just as busy and Dooher agrees that he and his colleague are an endangered species, then adds in his uncomplicated style: “That’s our choice”.

“We know it’s tough and I suppose everything suffers a bit for it but we enjoy it and we have the opportunity to work with a good group of players as well,” he says.

“All those parts feed into it – everybody is doing a lot of things to make it work and that’s the real key here, it’s everybody else, it’s not Feargal or myself, it’s the people around us – they are the people who are often forgotten but I couldn’t speak highly enough of the people we have.

“Then you have the players too – they come to training with a bounce in their step no matter what. They’re willing to learn, willing to push on and they could probably give you a bit of energy.

“You know what, you put that split on – you go and do your work and then you go and do your football, that’s the only way you can focus on it.

“It (football) is something to look forward to and there’s a good team around me so I’m lucky from that point of view because it’s not what I do, it’s what the people around me do really because that’s where the differences are made.”

Logan had to take a step back from the management team in February but he made a welcome return to the training ground since the end of the League. Dooher said that his colleague had remained on the phone and generally plugged-in to the Red Hands set-up throughout his time on the sidelines.

“We have a very good backroom team,” he explains.

“I can only pay tribute to them and the work they’ve done because they’ve made it just like normal – boys like Joe McMahon, Collie Holmes, Des Magennis in the coaching, the strength and conditioning staff, our analysts Marty and Darragh… They have stepped up and took on the mantle and made the job easier for us. It’s them that does all the work and the heavy lifting and I have to say thanks to them for what they’ve done.”

Tyrone's Aidan Clarke turns under pressure from Monaghan defender Ryan Wylie at Healy Park. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Tyrone's Aidan Clarke turns under pressure from Monaghan defender Ryan Wylie at Healy Park. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

TIR Eoghan Contae Ui Neill… All Tyrone natives dream of wearing that Red Hand crest one day and Dooher did it honour for 16 seasons, spearheading the county to their first, second (as captain) and third Sam Maguires.

He and Logan brought home the county’s fourth and, although Tyrone have slipped down the pecking order in the list of favourites, with that red and white jersey on, the Red Hands can never be discounted.

Dooher’s belief in his players is iron-clad but he says that’s the norm.

“I chat to every other manager and we all believe the same thing – if we didn’t believe it why would be here?” asked the Strabane native.

“They all believe that they have a group of players who, if they play to their full potential, are capable of doing big things. Everybody believes that. There’s a lot of things that have to be done before that happens, a lot of factors…

“It’s how we can be our best on the next day out. You go out every day at training to be better and you take it step-by-step. That’s the challenge you have and the challenge for yourself is to get better as a manager as well as a player. Everybody has that challenge to get better and if you can bring that couple of per cent extra all the time and add it all together you have a chance probably. That’s the conundrum.”

Tyrone haven’t won an Ulster title since 2021 which is by no means a drought, but they have exited the race for the Anglo-Celt Cup at the quarter-final stage over the last two seasons. League form this year was patchy once again but Red Hand fans will still expect their county to lock horns with the best in the land. Dooher and his players welcome that challenge.

“When you’re playing for Tyrone everybody expects you to go out there every day and win and that hasn’t been the case,” said Dooher.

“We all go out every day and expect to win and so do the players but it doesn’t happen that way and whenever you are trying to bring new players in as well and with that bit of change it does bring risks with it but I’d be happy enough with the young fellas - I think they’ve done really well.

“Everybody demands it of themselves – first and foremost that’s where it sits, it sits within yourself. There is an expectation that you go out and do your best and every other county is the same as Tyrone – they’re proud counties and they want to go out and do their best. You wouldn’t be in here, doing this job if you didn’t have that.”

11/9/2021  Tyrones  Conor Meyler with Mattie Donnelly     in action with Mayos  Patrick Durcan and Stephen Coen   in Saturdays All Ireland Final game at Croke Park      Picture   Seamus Loughran.
Conor Meyler on the attack as Tyrone beat Mayo in the 2021 All-Ireland final. Picture: Seamus Loughran.

AFTER taking over from the legendary Mickey Harte, Dooher and Logan navigated their way around Monaghan (Ulster final), a Covid outbreak in the camp, then Kerry (All-Ireland semi-final) and finally Mayo to win the Sam Maguire.

Was that too much too soon? Did they make a rod for their backs as they try to bring through young players to take the places of those who retired soon afterwards?

Dooher answers again in that straightforward manner...

“It wouldn’t matter if we won it or not – there’ll always be that expectation of: When’s the next one?” he says.

“That’s what you hope yourself for – everybody has that desire to be the best they can be, everybody has that aspiration.

“It’s far away out there, it’s a vision of where you want to get to but there are a lot of steps and we need to get on them steps before we worry about what’s in the future. But that’s the dream and everybody has that dream no matter whether you’re that height there (a child’s height) and you’ll probably have it until you’re not here anymore.

“It’s making sure you do what you can to impact it now and do what you can to impact it the week after. That’s what we’re trying to get a focus on and that’s the challenge.”