2019/2021: Mickey Moran (Kilcoo)
MICKEY Moran practically had to be dragged up the steps of the Hogan Stand following Kilcoo’s All-Ireland success earlier in the year, but there’s no doubt the soft-spoken Derry man has played an incredible role in their success. Kilcoo had been knocking on the doors for years, but they finally got over the line in Ulster with a narrow victory over Naomh Conaill in 2019. They defended their title in 2021 (there was a gap year due to Covid) with a thumping of Derrygonnelly, and they didn’t stop there, going to win the Andy Merrigan Cup with an astonishingly dramatic win over Kilmacud Crokes. Moran has stepped down as manager, but they couldn’t let a good man go and he’s still involved in a backroom capacity.
2018 MervyN O’Donnell (Gaoth Dobhair)
GAOTH Dobhair’s Ulster Championship success in 2018 was memorable for all the right reasons. Their barnstorming win over provincial giants Crossmaglen, Kevin Cassidy’s reinvention as a muscle-bound full-forward, their celebratory antics on social media after nipping Scotstown in the final. The man on the sideline was the affable Mervyn O’Donnell, who helped engineer a remarkable turnaround for the club in the space of a few years. Their Ulster triumph was particularly notable as they were the first Donegal team to win the title since 1975.
2014/2016/2017 Mickey Moran (Sleacht Néill)
IT’S that man again – Mickey Moran. You’ll know all about the Sleacht Néill story at this stage – how a group of remarkably talented hurlers and footballers (not to mention the camogs) sprung to prominence in the last decade and gobbled up plenty of titles along the way. The football team won their first ever Ulster title with a narrow victory over Omagh St Enda’s in 2014, with Christopher Bradley’s stoppage time point proving the winning of the game. They got better and better and pocketed further titles in 2016 and 2017. In hindsight, it’s a shame they didn’t get over the line in the race for Andy Merrigan, losing finals to Corofin and Dr Crokes. Still, they’ve been tremendous ambassadors for the game and the majority of their top players are still going strong at club and county level.
2015 Oisin McConville/John McEntee (Crossmaglen)
THEY enjoyed a wealth of success during their playing days in the black and amber, and John McEntee and Oisin McConville did the business as joint-managers in the 2015 season, the last time Crossmaglen won the Ulster title. The South Armagh side ground down Kilcoo in the semi-final on a scoreline of 0-12 to 0-8, and then they edged out Scotstown in a marathon battle that went to extra-time on a scoreline of 2-17 to 2-12. The 8,694 crowd were treated to a memorable contest which featured four sending-offs, three of which came in extra-time, including both Hughes brothers Kieran and Darren. Crossmaglen bowed out at the All-Ireland semi-final stage to Castlebar, prompting McEntee and McConville to stand down from their managerial duties.
2013 Martin McKinless (BALLINDERRY)
THIRD time lucky. Martin McKinless was on the losing side of the fence when Ballinderry fell short to Crossmaglen in 2006 and 2008 (in 2006 they only mustered a miserly two points), but they achieved redemption with a 1-13 to 2-6 victory over Glenswilly. The Derry team were rocked by the concession of a Michael Murphy goal after two points, but they settled themselves and were full value for their third ever Ulster SFC club title. Indeed, Glenswilly didn’t manage to score for the final 20 minutes as the vastly experienced Ballinderry side powered across the finish line.
2010-2012 Tony McEntee and Gareth O’Neill (Crossmaglen)
CROSSMAGLEN have produced many brilliant teams down the years, and the side that claimed three Ulster titles in a row at the early part of the last decade was as good as any of them. Widely respected at the time for the directness of their attacking play, they came out on top of provincial showdowns against Naomh Conaill, Burren and Kilcoo with a degree of comfort. They also won two All-Irelands in a row (in 2010 and 2011), a phenomenal achievement for any club. Cross’ performance in the 2011 replayed final against Garrycastle was perhaps their crowning performance of the era, running out 2-19 to 1-7 victors with a spell-binding display.
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