By Shaun Casey
DERRY star Brendan Rogers admits he was “surprised” but “excited” by the introduction of three-time All-Ireland manager Mickey Harte as the new Oak Leaf boss.
Harte guided his native county Tyrone to the Sam Maguire in 2003, 2005 and 2008 and spent the last two seasons in Louth where he gained back-to-back promotion from Division Four and Division Three.
But he’s made the switch back to Ulster and he’ll hope to guide Derry to the Anglo Celt Cup for the third year in a row, something the county has never achieved.
“I suppose when you look at it, it looked like we were never going to get Rory (Gallagher) back, that’s the first step, then Ciarán Meenagh obviously stepped aside,” said Rogers.
“Malachy O’Rourke got himself tied up with Glen again so I guess you were wondering who you could even approach and things like that.
“I guess you were wary that other managers were already in positions so I suppose you could say that we were quite fortunate that Mickey and Gavin (Devlin) were willing to leave Louth for us.
“It was surprising that they were available and then they took the job, that’s one thing, but ultimately, I was happy. You’re looking at a manager that has won All-Irelands before.
“That’s the kind of managerial experience that you want and obviously I don’t know Mickey personally, I can just go with what he has done in the managing field, and it’s been very successful.
“All-Irelands even aside, he’s won a lot of McKenna Cups and Ulster Championships as well so that’s a big factor.”
While Rogers, and perhaps most of the Derry camp, won’t know Harte on an intimate level, Rogers and his Sleacht Néill teammates know Gavin Devlin, Harte’s right-hand man, better than most.
Devlin, centre half-back on the first ever Tyrone team to win the All-Ireland in 2003, managed by Harte, coached Sleacht Néill to their last county title under Paul Bradley in 2020.
While Rogers, an All-Star nominee two years in a row and a candidate for Football of the Year this season, is excited by the county setup, his focus is on the small ball at the minute as Sleacht Néill hope to reclaim their Ulster Championship crown.
“I knew Gavin, he was in with Sleacht Néill for a couple of years along with Paul Bradley, so I know what he’s like and how good of a character he is and what type of a coach he is, so I was excited by that prospect as well, to get to work with him again.
“I was happy with it. Once I had made that quick assessment, I was content in that I didn’t need to think about what he’s like or what he’s not like. I didn’t really care because I sort of know what the lay of the land will be once I return from club season.
“It’s going to be top level; high expectations and you’re going to get quality coaching provided you hold up your own end of the bargain. I’m excited about it but it’s an excitement I can contain until club’s over.”