Gerard O'Kane


WELL, it has been all change in the landscape of Ulster football in the last few weeks with regard to managerial appointments.

Donegal have gone back to Jim McGuinness, someone who will give a massive boost and energetic lift for the county even before the players turn up for their first session. This appointment will help to start to heal rifts that have become apparent over the last two years.

A lot of work will have to take place on the pitch and after the initial bounce of energy, it will primarily be down to the players themselves, but the appointment will be seen as positive for the county.


In Cavan, they have gone the other direction in appointing their current (likely now former player and captain) Raymond Galligan as manager. It was a nomination that came out of the blue but once his hat was in the ring, Galligan obviously decided to pursue the opportunity and put together a very impressive backroom team that seems to cover all aspects of a top-level intercounty team.

This can swing both ways for Galligan. He has arguably covered as many aspects as possible to make up for his lack of hands-on experience of coaching and he is humble enough to realise that. Often in inter-county management, the manager might not actually take on as much hands-on training and he has to just have an eye for detail and know the game. You can only assume Galligan has proved this during interviews or maybe even over the last few years.

I remember when ‘Banty’ took over Meath after Monaghan, he assembled a backroom team around him to cover all aspects that he might need. He then went onto manage Wexford and had a minimal backroom team, and at the time he was quoted as saying he had spent too much time actually managing the backroom team in Meath and not enough on the actual football. This is something that Galligan himself will have to be conscious of and navigate.

It will be interesting times for these two counties as they both will compete in Division Two of the National League next year.

Moving on to purely football aspects, it will be interesting to note all the county managers popping up around various county championships across the province.

County championships be it group or backdoor stages (I covered the merits of this a few weeks ago) are now hitting the knockout stages very soon, if not already. The shadow boxing is all over and those with aspirations of winning championships will have to commit to the attack more.

I have seen a fair bit of football in Derry this year and I feel the whole idea of setting up to avoid defeat is losing its appeal and teams are playing a more expansive brand than they have been in the last few years. Games can often start off cagey but after the initial stages, teams seem to be making more of an effort to go on the attack and this has been reflected in attendances.

Where there have been multiple group games on at the same time, it’s understandable that attendances are not through the roof, but where there have been standalone games there has been bumper crowds.

Neutrals are coming back in numbers to go and watch other games – although it should be said that’s partly due to the season ticket on offer from the Derry County Board which represents great value at £70 to cover all games in all codes.

Hurling is taking precedence in the next few weeks in Derry but it will be hard to look past Sleacht Néill for their eleventh in a row, which is a remarkable feat given they were not a regular powerhouse before this.

In the football, Glen will be very hard to look past. They have sort of coasted through the group games without ever having to really open up and Malachy O’Rourke has been using a number of new players with plenty of panel rotation.

This helps to keep players on their toes with no one able to get too comfortable which is a great position to be in as a manager. They really only have to peak for a period of six weeks from the knockout quarter-finals through to the finals and they seem to have great depth in their panel to do so.

At intermediate level, where my own club Glenullin are currently plying their trade, there are four or five teams who are all showing form capable of winning the title.

As defending champions this year, there is maybe a little more expectation on us than there was last year but equally, there are other teams who will have designs on winning the intermediate title and both the groups at this level are very tight with a lot to be decided on the last day of play.

The next three weeks’ preparation will tell a lot about where teams’ ambitions lie.

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