GAA Football

Cahair O'Kane: Derry will have to throw everything at landing Malachy O'Rourke now

Malachy O'Rourke is certain to become Derry's prime target to take over as manager. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Cahair O'Kane

DERRY’S senior football championship final takes place on October 29. That is six-and-a-half weeks away.

The expectation is that, for the third year running, Glen will be one of the teams standing for the anthem that afternoon.

Championship football can throw up surprises but it would be a brave man that bets against the reigning back-to-back holders of the John McLaughlin Cup emerging from Derry again this year.

If they were to do so and Kilcoo were to emerge from Down again, the big two in Ulster club football for the last two seasons would be on opposite sides of the draw, unable to meet until the provincial final.

That’s a lot of ‘if’. There’s a chance none of it happens, but equally none it is outlandish to suggest.

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But when it comes to Malachy O’Rourke being linked with the now-vacant Oak Leaf job, timing is everything.

At some point, he is likely to go back into inter-county football.

Retired from teaching last year after 32 years in St Joseph’s College, O’Rourke is still only 56.

If he has the inclination, he has the time.

When there’s a job vacant anywhere north of the Dublin-Galway line, his name will be linked with it. More often than not, he’ll get a phone call.

He spoke to Donegal last year before Paddy Carr was appointed but said that he “didn’t think it was the right fit at the time”.

Derry have sounded him out on more than enough occasions since he came to prominence by guiding The Loup to an unprecedented Ulster Club title twenty years ago.

The two sides could never quite make it fit.

It remains to be seen what Derry do now.

The speculation has been rampant for weeks but with two distinct strands to it.

On one side, a potential return for Rory Gallagher. That prospect has now been categorically ruled out by Derry GAA in today's Irish News.


Former Derry senior football manager Rory Gallagher.


Ciaran Meenagh staying on as manager never seemed particularly likely.

He did a superb job steadying the ship in a really rocky few months and oversaw a first-half against Kerry that was on a par with the second period of the Dublin semi-final in 1993 as the Oak Leafers’ greatest Croke Park performance.

The second period fell short but Meenagh was hugely impressive in the way that he handled himself, both on the line and in his post-match media duties.

But he’d come in as a coach under Damian McErlain and given five years to the role, four of them under Gallagher.

The time commitments of management are colossal and as a teacher in St Colm’s Draperstown, it never felt as though it would fit either.

It means that the natural direction for people to look is the one facing Malachy O’Rourke.

Is he interested? If he was, would it fit around his commitment to Glen? What if that commitment runs until December or January, how does that work? Ryan Porter would almost certainly come with him but he’s in the same boat.

They have to replace Peter Hughes, the strength and conditioning coach that proved popular with the players but who has left to take up a role with New Zealand rugby sevens.

On some levels it works and on others, it doesn’t.

But for a Derry team that has just won back-to-back Ulster titles and come within a whisker of reaching an All-Ireland final, there is nowhere else left to turn.

It’s already September 12.

With only three vacant managerial posts in Ireland, the other two being Laois and Tipperary, the waters in which they’re fishing are already very shallow.

Kitchen sink and all, it might not be enough for them to land Malachy O’Rourke, but they’ll have to throw it all at him anyway.


GAA Football