Derry "completely rule out" possibility of Rory Gallagher returning as manager

Derry GAA have moved to quell speculation by ruling out a potential return for Rory Gallagher. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Derry GAA have moved to quell speculation by ruling out a potential return for Rory Gallagher. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

DERRY GAA have confirmed that they have completely ruled out the possibility of reinstating Rory Gallagher as manager.

The Oak Leaf managerial post was officially left vacant on Monday by the news that Ciaran Meenagh would not be seeking to stay on in the role he’d temporarily taken on in the summer.

Gallagher had stepped back the week before the Ulster final following allegations of domestic abuse made by his estranged wife, Nicola.

Following a Sunday newspaper report at the weekend that included photographs of Gallagher taking a training session with Monaghan club Corduff, Ulster GAA released their statement that indicated he was temporarily "debarred without prejudice” from the GAA.

That ban will remain in place until the provincial body’s adult safeguarding review into the claims is completed. No timeline for its completion has been announced.

Having been in charge for three-and-a-half years, the prospect of Gallagher's return had been widely speculated on in Derry in recent weeks.

It was fuelled largely by the vacuum of information around whether Meenagh was staying in position during the 57 days that passed between the All-Ireland semi-final and Monday's news that he did not wish to be considered for the job on a permanent basis.

Read more: Derry will have to throw everything at landing Malachy O'Rourke now

Meenagh will not be involved with Derry at all next year.

When asked by The Irish News if Derry GAA had completely ruled out a potential return for Gallagher, a spokesperson replied: “Yes”.

That will kill speculation of the former Fermanagh forward’s potential return and leaves Derry with a huge vacancy to fill.

All eyes will focus on Malachy O’Rourke now.

The Derrylin native and long-time resident of Ballygawley is in his third season in charge of Glen, whom he guided to first ever Derry (2021) and Ulster (2022) club titles before narrowly losing the All-Ireland final to Kilmacud Crokes in January.

It is his second spell in Derry club football having won the same county and provincial titles (also a first) with The Loup in 2003.

O’Rourke was Monaghan manager for seven years, guiding them to two Ulster titles in 2013 and 2015, but hasn’t been involved in inter-county football since stepping down after a qualifier defeat at home to Armagh in 2019.

His is the only name on the lips of Derry supporters now, with very few viable alternatives jumping out.

Damian Cassidy, the 1993 All-Ireland winner who managed the county for two years in 2009 and ’10, ruled himself out when contacted by The Irish News, stating that he was committed to a “long-term project” in his native Bellaghy, where he’s in the second season of his latest stint in charge.

With the team having placed itself in the conversation for All-Ireland honours by winning consecutive Ulster titles, the players are likely to want a high-profile appointment that can carry the weight of that expectation.

Whoever comes in will have to replace Peter Hughes as strength and conditioning coach. The Eskra man was hugely popular with the players but has departed to take up a role with the New Zealand rugby sevens.