If Down want me to manage, let's talk says Deegan

Conor Deegan in action against Dublin during the 1994 All-Ireland final
Conor Deegan in action against Dublin during the 1994 All-Ireland final

AS A proud Down man Conor Deegan says he would relish the chance to manage his county.

The two-time All-Ireland winner has been linked with the role since it was vacated by Jim McCorry last month, but he is keeping his powder dry until a call comes through from the Down county board.

Deegan has been a contender for the Mourne county's top job in the past and is again now because of an impressive track record in Dublin club football. Spells with top flight giants Kilmacud Croke’s and Ballyboden, as well as Division Two outfits Naomh Mearnóg and Skerries, gave the Downpatrick native a thorough grounding in management. Now, 'back home' after 16 years in Dublin, he is keen to try his hand at inter-county level.

“It’s my home county and I want to see Down doing well,” said Deegan, who took the reigns of Aughlisnafin at the start of the 2015 season and has guided them to the brink of promotion to Division Two with three games still to play.

“I like to think that I could bring something to help in that regard, but time will tell that tale. Is it something that I’d be interested in? Of course. I’d be very happy to sit down and talk. There has been no contact with anybody as far as I know – there certainly has been nothing with me. If they don’t phone me, that’s fine. If they do, I’ll speak to them.”

Deegan, an Allstar in 1991, won county titles with home town club Downpatrick RGU and Kilmacud Croke’s after work commitments led him to transfer to the south Dublin outfit in 1996.

“I have reasonable experience, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.

“You can throw my playing career on top of that and the men that I’ve worked under, so I do have experience. Whether that’s sufficient, only the county board can make that call. You have a lot of other fellas in the county – Mickey Linden, Éamon Burns… You have people sitting there who will carry as much experience as me, if not more.”

Watching games is the best way to judge the players in the county and Deegan is convinced that talent is there. For him, the key would be establishing a system that works for Down footballers.

“I’ve moved home. The last time the job came up, I was living in Dublin,” he said.

“So I’ve seen a fair bit of football around the county and I always believe we produce good footballers. Whether we produce enough at the right time together is open for debate. Having lived in Dublin and seen how Dublin organise themselves and perform, I think an awful lot is down to structures and how you set yourself up.

“Football has changed quite dramatically over the last few years. It’s now a matter of defending and getting the ball out as quickly as you can in the right manner.

“Ultimately, you want the top 25 players that you have available, but it’s about players playing to a system that suits them and it’s all about building a system that will suit the Down player. Take what Jim McGuinness did with Donegal or what Jim Gavin has done with Dublin, or what Mayo or Kerry have done. They all adopted and adapted to suit themselves and to suit what they have.

“Kerry set up with a defensive approach, but they have players who can kick the ball accurately over 40-50 yards so they can move the ball out of defence much quicker than other teams can. Dublin are different, they have more athleticism than most and they run it out of defence at breakneck pace.

“There’s so many facets that need to be brought together for anything to happen [in Down] but, where there’s a will, there’s always a way.”