O’Rourke happy with Glen’s ambition but has split season concerns

By Michael McMullan

GLEN manager Malachy O’Rourke doesn’t really take on the suggestion he’s been linked with county management posts.

His name has been mentioned in dispatches when Down and Donegal had vacant positions in recent years, but he’s happy with his lot.

Seated in the corner of the splendid new Armagh Harps complex at the launch of Sunday’s showdown with Kilcoo, he is the epitome of relaxation.

County teams bring a great challenge and there’s the attraction of being plonked in the middle of players looking to achieve at the highest level.

With Glen, he’s just “delighted” to be involved and two Derry championships later, he leads the Watties into Sunday’s showdown with All-Ireland champions Kilcoo.

“The boys are putting in a massive effort and it’s an ambitious club, a really well-run club and they’re enjoying it at the minute so I am happy enough with where I am,” O’Rourke said.

The former Fermanagh and Monaghan boss is happy to be the epicentre of the Ulster Club race.

“It’s taking it step by step and when you have the All-Ireland champions in the competition you can’t really look too far ahead of that so that’s the challenge now,” said O’Rourke.

The yardstick for his tenure in Glen, well, it was to deliver the John McLaughlin Cup. Now it’s been retained, Ulster beckons again and a rematch with Kilcoo. Improvement needed from running them close last year. What does that look like?

A more polished approach on the ball is one. Shot conversion is another aspect and the 2-10 they passed up against Cargin will have been ironed out in recent weeks.

“Then when they (Kilcoo) had the ball, we were too porous at times…so without going into specifics, there are lots of things we need to be better at,” O’Rourke said.

“They have dangers all over the field. That’s the thing about them, they are not depending on one or two forwards and if you take them out of the game.”

The Glen manager feels Kilcoo are different to many teams in that they have “a lot of fires” their opponents need to extinguish.

“It’s about getting a team performance and we have to be really on it from the start. We need to be really solid defensively and when we are on the ball have that bit of quality,” he added.

Mobile and fit players, that’s Kilcoo’s calling card in O’Rourke’s eyes. And they have the perfect age profile.

“Apart from a couple of the older lads, who are still playing, they have a lot of young lads in the prime of their career,” he said.

“They have loads of running…the likes Ryan McEvoy, Dylan Ward, Darryl Branagan, the Johnstons…they are all becoming better leaders as they go along. I would say they are a better team now than they were at any stage.”

The GAA unveiled their inter-calendar yesterday, with the opening round of NFL games penned for late January.  As a former county manager, how did the split season work on the other side of the fence?

Glen had six players on the county panel before Jack Doherty and Ciaran McFaul stepped away to made it four. In the short term, O’Rourke felt it “worked well”.

In both years O’Rourke has been in charge, Glen won the league – albeit it was Lavey and Loup’s concession of games on the final weekend – to Newbridge and Glen respectively – that handed decided the 2021 league title.

But O’Rourke has an overall concern for what the split season means for the player in a club that goes late into the year.

He uses the Glen players as an example, bringing in the Emmet’s hurlers who saw their season end a matter of hours before O’Rourke spoke at last Sunday’s press event.

“They have been really going now for two years because they came back to the club and we gave them a couple of weeks off and now they’re still playing in December,” O’Rourke stated.

“I don’t know how many weeks they will get (off) and then it’s straight back in and going right through.”

When Glen finishes, O’Rourke feels players should be entitled to an “off season”, asking the question of how long they can keep going.

“They should be getting an off-season and then a pre-season to get them right for next year…in all honesty, and that’s not blaming anybody, but that’s the way it is at the minute,” O’Rourke continued.

“The league starts at the end of January, they are going to go back in and they’re on the treadmill again. I don’t know how long that can go on.

“For Conor (Glass) who’s obviously coming from a professional sport, that’s okay when you have the recovery time and all the resources, but he’s now got his own business.

“It’s not professional anymore and that’s the demands that are being placed on them. So it’s tough on those players.

“It’s the same for the Sleacht Néill boys who have been hurling right until today (Sunday) and now they’re back in and they keep on going.

“So that’s the bit of it I feel is tough for the boys who are going all the time. I don’t know what the answer is in the long term but if you’re involved in both and successful in both, it’s tough.”

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