QUB boss Conor Deegan lapping up his first weeks at university
Electric Ireland Higher Education Senior Football League Division One Group B: St Mary's UC, Belfast v Letterkenny IT (today, Lámh Dhearg, 2.30pm); Queen's University v Ulster University (tonight, the Dub, 8pm); Fresher Football: Queen's University v Ulster University (tonight, the Dub, 6.15pm)
QUEEN'S University manager Conor Deegan admits he's on a learning curve as far as the colleges' Gaelic football scene goes, but the Down man is also lapping up the experience.
Deegan got his first win with Queen's in their HE Senior Football League group when they travelled to Convoy and beat Letterkenny IT last Wednesday night. This evening, they host Ulster University at the Dub in what is a double-header with the Freshers.
While Deegan is frustrated with the absence of many potential squad members due to club and other commitments, he isn't getting hung up on the issue.
“Like every college at the minute, you're struggling to get bodies in all the time,” the former Down U20 boss said.
“The club scene is still, well not at full throttle, but certainly it's at a very serious level and players who are with their clubs are with their clubs.
“There's a lot of things happening at the one time, but in my first experience of it, I have to say, personally, I'm enjoying it immensely. It's different – you have everything on site, which is tremendous. But preparation has been grand, albeit a bit disjointed.”
Simon McErlain and Giuseppe Lupari, who helped O'Donovan Rossa, Magherafelt to their first Derry title in 41 years last Sunday, are among Deegan's hypothetical charges. The duo will be hoping the Ulster club championship keeps them unavailable for a while yet.
“They're not missing because we haven't seen them to date, that's the best way you can look at it,” added the QUB coach.
“You've guys can turn up one time but can't turn up the other through courses or having to be somewhere. It's a wee bit unusual, so I think you have to be quite fluid and have a reasonable amount of understanding that that's the way it's going to be.”
Last week's win over Letterkenny was a positive start to Deegan's maiden campaign and a perfect chance for him to run the eye over his panel in a competitive scenario.
“My managerial career is now complete, traipsing up there on a Wednesday night,” joked Deegan of the roundtrip to Convoy.
“Young Darren McGurran did very well. Seán McCarthy did rightly. There was an awful lot of effort put in; it certainly wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, you're trying to bed things in, you're trying to get an understanding of how we want the ball to be moved, all the little nuances of football.
“When you get to that point, you're really going ‘suck it and see'. It was as much a learning experience for myself, standing there watching players, seeing what their default is – what way do they set-up; do they hide, do they stand up, do they go looking for the ball, all the things you're always looking for.”
Also in Group B today, last year's beaten Sigerson finalists St Mary's get their campaign up and running with a tie against Letterkenny at Hannahstown.