Conleith Gilligan looking forward to involvement with Down club Kilcoo
CONLEITH Gilligan only had to get it “half-cleared” at home before he accepted the invitation to become an important part of Mickey Moran's Kilcoo management team.
Blessed with an understanding wife and a keen football brain, the former Ballinderry and Derry star will link up with Moran at Down's ‘Magpies' after Christmas to begin training for the 2019 season.
Gilligan (39 next month) retired from playing at the end of the Shamrocks' campaign this year and has wasted no time dipping his toe into the managerial water. He admitted that a call from Moran, the man who guided Slaughtneil to four Derry titles, three Ulsters and two All-Ireland finals, was far too tempting to turn down.
“I have known Mickey a long time and we always got on well and when he asked me I didn't really have to think about it too long,” he admitted.
“Initially it scared the life out of me but I suppose part of me thought: ‘If it's that scary it must be worth having a go at' and working with Mickey is a huge opportunity for me to learn a bit more.
“The logistics of travelling up and down the road, the time involved, was the only thing so once it was half-cleared at home it was all systems go. Joanne (his wife) rolled her eyes when I told her – she deserves a medal because I have three youngsters and they're all out doing their activities and she does most of the running.
“Without the support from home you couldn't even think about taking something like this on but it's a great opportunity at a great club with a great tradition and they have the ambition to get back to the top of the tree in Down.”
Moran and Gilligan will be joined in the dugout by Ballinascreen native Paul Devlin and they have inherited a talented and focussed group of players who won six Down titles in-a-row under Jim McCorry (two) and then Paul McIver before Burren ended their run and prevented them from setting a new benchmark of seven on-the-trot last month.
Gilligan came up against Kilcoo back in 2013 when Ballinderry saw off the Magpies on their way to winning the Ulster Club title.
“I've played against them,” he said.
“I was doing bits and pieces of work last year on commentary for the BBC I was at the Kilcoo-Slaughtneil game so I've seen a lot them.
“They're an impressive team full of fabulous footballers and Paul McIver and Jim McCorry have done massively well with them so there is a lot of pressure to achieve with them but they are a driven group and they will want to get the best out of themselves.
“We're hoping to put together and environment where they can be the best they can be and if that's enough then great, but Burren are now the big team in Down and it's a matter of trying to break into that again.”
Kilcoo's season ended with a number of key players struggling with injury. Their new management team will give them a lengthy break but when training does resume after Christmas, Gilligan says it will be “full throttle”.
“These Kilcoo players have been on the road for a number of years so this is a good opportunity for them to have a bit of time off and a break before they go at it again,” he said.
“Once they go at it it'll be full throttle but at this stage they'll be able to rest up. They've had a few injuries – some more serious than others – so they'll have a chance to get their bodies healed and recharge their batteries for next year.”
Meanwhile, Moran who played a relatively low-key part with Donegal's Urris in 2018, retains an “incredible” appetite for the game according to his new assistant.
“I don't know where he gets the energy,” said Gilligan.
“Once he started talking (about Kilcoo), the enthusiasm he has for it and where he saw it going was infectious. Mickey lives and breathes football, it's just in him.
“We've been up training with U12s in Derry, it's not a development squad but any U12 in Derry can go and train with 15 or 20 different coaches every couple of months and Mickey has been driving that on Saturday mornings in all conditions.
“The enthusiasm that he has for football is incredible.”