Former player Brian McGuckin happy to plot Tyrone's downfall
Ulster Senior Football Championship
DERRY assistant boss Brian McGuckin admits it will be a strange experience coming up against his native county in the Ulster Championship, but the former Tyrone player insists helping the Oak Leafers spring a surprise on Sunday is his only focus.
McGuckin may have represented the Red Hands at minor and senior level, but he comes from a famous Oak Leaf family steeped in the GAA. His father Mick, as well as several uncles and cousins, have played for Derry. The one-time Red Hand star lives in Ballinderry and is well-versed in the county’s club football scene.
Plotting Tyrone’s downfall may be an odd situation to find himself in, but it’s one to which he is fully committed: “I’ve a lot of fond memories of playing for Tyrone and, obviously, I’ve a lot of friendships in Tyrone and still have a lot of allegiance towards Tyrone,” said McGuckin.
“I’ve just retired from playing club football with Edendork, but I live in Ballinderry, my kids play for Ballinderry, my father played for Ballinderry, I’ve a lot of relatives involved. I’m very proud now to be involved with Derry. My allegiance lies fully with Derry and a Derry win, which is what we hope to expect.”
McGuckin and Derry boss Damian Barton are teaching colleagues at St Patrick’s College in Dungannon and, for 15 years, their shared passion for Gaelic football has been thrashed out during conversations and debates in the staff room, training pitch and car park.
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Working behind enemy lines, though, has seen them subject to plenty of comment from excited pupils who will be cheering on Mickey Harte’s Red Hands on Sunday: “It's hyped over the last number of weeks, but I have to say, the kids in school are fantastic,” said Barton.
“It's not a scoffing session. It's a nice, friendly banter and not too much of it, thank God. We'll see what it might be like after Sunday week.”
"We tend to keep to ourselves,” smiles McGuckin, “meetings at break and lunch in my room.”
One stick that could be used to beat the Derry management team in the O’Neill county is the fact that, of their four encounters since December’s O Fiaich Cup, Tyrone have won them all - the last, in the league, was the most emphatic.
McGuckin is a big admirer of the current Red Hand side, but insists those previous meetings will have no bearing at Celtic Park: “I don’t know where expectation levels are outside our group, but I feel that too many people are getting caught up with past experiences, which have no significance whatsoever. Those four games that have passed us by are insignificant now,” he said.
“We have actually scored pretty well against them in the previous times we’ve played them - the one area that has really let us down is our basic mistakes and they’ve punished us.
“Whenever you’re chasing the game against Tyrone, you’re leaving a lot of gaps at the back and Tyrone are an exceptional counter-attacking team.”