Football

Oisin McConville and Mark Doran relish challenge with Wicklow next season

Oisin McConville guided Wicklow to the Division Four final against Tony McEntee's Sligo last season
Oisin McConville guided Wicklow to the Division Four final against Tony McEntee's Sligo last season Oisin McConville guided Wicklow to the Division Four final against Tony McEntee's Sligo last season

ULSTER duo Oisin McConville and Mark Doran will relish the challenge of establishing newly-promoted Wicklow in Division Three next year.

The Garden County last made it to the third tier after promotion in 2020 but their stay was short. Victory in a relegation play-off was required in 2021 when the National League was split into north and south groups due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But that turned out to be a stay of execution for Wicklow who claimed only three points from seven games the following season and were relegated back to the basement division.

However, McConville’s arrival last season inspired the Leinster county to rebound with promotion and the only defeat along the way was to McConville’s former Crossmaglen and Armagh team-mate Tony McEntee’s Sligo. To help establish the county in Division Three, Orchard county All-Ireland-winner McConville has recruited the sought-after services of Doran whose native Down are expected to be among the promotion frontrunners alongside Sligo and Westmeath. Antrim, Clare, Limerick and Offaly will also hope for success.

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It is understood that Longstone clubman Doran turned down offers to manage Clare and Laois before agreeing to link up with McConville in Wicklow. Doran was assistant to Clare manager Colm Collins last year and, after a season of four-hour commuting, he decided to move on when long-serving Collins called time on his stint with the Banner county.

Laois, who have since appointed Justin McNulty (another Armagh 2002 star), also came calling but Doran was determined to remain at the helm of Derry club Slaughtneil and didn’t feel he could juggle two management roles.

Slaughtneil pushed reigning champions Glen all the way when they met their local rivals at the semi-final stage of this year’s Derry Senior Football Championship. Glen won an intense battle by two points and went on to beat Magherafelt by nine in the final. On Sunday last year’s All-Ireland finalists set out to retain their Ulster crown when they take on Scotstown in the Ulster Club final at the Athletic Grounds.

Having previously been part of Paddy Tally’s management in his native Down before his stint in Munster with Clare (provincial finalists last year), Doran is looking forward to sampling Leinster football with a young Wicklow side next year.

“I like being taken out of my comfort zone,” said the former Down forward.

“I like the thought of working with a young squad at Wicklow. It’s always good to work with young players and the Wicklow panel is very young – 10 of them were under 20 last year. Everybody seems to be writing them off already so it will be a challenge and I love a challenge.”

Eoin McElholm was one of four talented GAA players who attended a recent AFL Combine
Eoin McElholm was one of four talented GAA players who attended a recent AFL Combine Eoin McElholm was one of four talented GAA players who attended a recent AFL Combine

Meanwhile, the 2023 Australian Football League draft took place last weekend so the four GAA stars who attended an Aussie Rules ‘Combine’ (trial) Down Under in late September should soon have confirmation on whether they will be offered professional contracts in the AFL next season.

Down midfielder Odhran Murdock, Tyrone underage star Eoin McElholm (who will line out for Ulster University against University of Limerick in Wednesday’s All-Ireland Freshers final), Galway’s James McLaughlin and Cork’s Conor Corbett spent two weeks at the Combine which included visits to several AFL clubs and rigorous testing alongside Australian prospects.