Transition time for Loup

By Michael McMullan

THERE is a changing of the guard in Loup this season after many of their experienced heads have called time on their careers.

Last year, former Championship winner Fionntán Devlin answered Chairman Joey Corey’s call to get involved with the u-20 team and now heads up a senior management team that includes former teammate Brian Lavery, Joe Devlin, Barry McManus, Sean Doyle and Sean Wilson.

The u-20 crop had played ‘B’ football on their way up through the ranks and dipped their top into the ‘A’ grade to test the water.

“It was a case of seeing how they go,” Devlin said. “They were a good group of lads and I hadn’t worked with them since they were at primary school or the younger groups at underage.

“It was a good bridging gap to see how they were,” said Devlin, who has had management roles with Edendork and Errigal Ciaran. He was also part of Lenny Harbinson’s management ticket with Antrim seniors.

It was time for Devlin to put something back into the older age groups in the club with some of the players he lined out with in the club’s Third team in Derry’s Recreational Reserve League.

While goalkeeper Callum Lagan and Adam Canavan have some senior experience, Dara Joe Martin, James McClure, Aaron McAlynn and Paudie Wilson take the number to ‘six of seven’ of the u-20 group now cutting their teeth at senior level.

Thomas Mallon, Terence O’Brien. Jason Rocks, Brian Doyle, Ciaran Devlin and Declan McVey remain to lead the new crop.

Paddy Coney will return from a summer in America, but they’ve lost a core from last season.

Gavin Mallon, Aidan McAlynn, Paul, Dominic, Collie and Fearghal McVey have stepped away.

“That has been the big thing, we’ve lost a lot of experience and it’s a big change,” Devlin points out. “We have a relatively inexperienced group of lads, so it is a learning curve for them.”

Sunday’s win over Steelstown keeps them in the top four of the new-look Derry Senior League. A six-point defeat to leaders Dungiven has been their toughest day. There were narrow defeats to Lavey and Bellaghy, with draws against Ballinascreen and Sleacht Néill, but they have made progress.

“With a new management team and a very inexperienced group of players, it has suited us very well,” Devlin explains of Derry’s League that has no relegation worries.

The entire programme is played without county players, with League status dictated by progress in the Championship later in the season.

“It’s a playing league, it’s not ultra-competitive,” Devlin said. “We were all used to having League games when it was real blood and thunder, it’s not that way at all.”

He knows it will be a different story when the League Championship kicks in later in the season and all the “big teams” have their full quota of players.

“For us, our expectations are totally different from what they used to be,” he said. “You have to live in the real world.

“The likes of Sleacht Néill, Glen, Lavey and Magherafelt, they are in a different place in comparison to where the Loup are at, where it is a period of consolidation.

“It is still about keeping your Division One status. It is a strange format. I know if I was in the job two or three years with a group of players they were really looking to push on, I’d want a competitive League.”

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