[With commentary below from P.J. Cunningham]
The GAA is big on tradition and over the years you would rarely see inter-county football or hurling managers moving to their neighbors. Even now we haven’t a Kerryman take charge of the Cork footballers or a Tipperary hurler move across the border to manage the Limerick hurling team, or a Dubliner managing Meath.
However, we do live in changed times where anything can and does happen. Last week 24 hours following his announcement that he was stepping down as Louth manager, Mickey Harte was named as the new Derry senior football manager. The appointment was made on Sept. 19, the 30th anniversary of Derry’s solitary All-Ireland final win over Cork. Harte, who won the Sam Maguire Cup three times with his native Tyrone during his 18 years, had a very successful three years in charge of Louth, taking them from Division 4 to Division 2. He has now been given a three-year term in charge of his neighbors. Harte obviously sees potential in neighbors Derry, who got to the All-Ireland semi-final this year, and a lot of people forget that Derry’s interim manager following the departure of Rory Gallagher earlier this year was Tyrone native Ciarán Meenagh.
Former Derry star and television analyst Joe Brolly described the appointment as “the worst thing to happen to Derry since the plantation’’ and vowed not to attend Tyrone games. Meantime, Louth chairman Peter Fitzpatrick said of Harte and his assistant Gavin Devlin. ‘‘They have shown professionalism, enthusiasm, dedication and continued courtesy over the last three years and we have enjoyed a positive working relationship with Mickey and his management team which concluded in the group stages of the All-Ireland following a first Leinster final appearance since 2010. We will now begin the process in seeking a new senior football team manager.”
But former Louth captain Seamus O’Hanlon says he has been left feeling angry and betrayed by Harte’s departure. He said: ‘‘After witnessing Mickey and his assistant, Gavin Devlin, at several championship matches over the last few months, I had assumed, like everyone else, that they were deep into preparations for the 2024 inter-county season.’’
Exits leave Louth out to dry / By P.J. Cunningham
Who said there would be no back page leads from August to March when the GAA’s intercounty season went into long-term hibernation? The news that Mickey Harte resigned last week as Louth's football manager to take up the role as Oak Leaf boss made both front and back page headlines.
The 69-year-old was driven out of his native Tyrone, whom he led to three Sam Maguire titles, and had always felt there was another big day left in him.
His interim work with Louth suggested he still had the hunger and desire as he led them to two promotions and a Leinster final during his three seasons in charge of the Wee County. Indeed he was a sliver away from guiding them to Division One last season, coming third in Division Two after ending the campaign on a high.
The real bad news for Louth was that his assistant, Gavin Devlin, considered one of the best coaches in the modern game, was not tempted to stay behind and take over the managerial role; instead he has opted to accompany his boss back into the Ulster hot seat.
It was Louth GAA who sprung the news on an unsuspecting GAA nation by confirming Harte’s departure on their Facebook account.
What they didn’t tell us is the huge disappointment they felt that having already begun work with the squad to get them in better condition for next term, they left the players and the county board out to dry.
The news helped Derry folk digest what was happening before their county board held a meeting of its county executive the following night to confirm that Mickey Harte would be proposed as manager of the team who have won two Ulster titles in a row but failed to make the All Ireland final stage in either year.
While prominent Derry GAA people such as Joe Brolly have condemned the county board for bringing Harte in, it means that Ulster will be powder keg waiting to go off next spring as Derry meet Tyrone in the league. Not far away is Jim McGuinness and his Donegal side who Harte always saw as the real enemy during his time in charge of the Red Hand county.
While there is tremendous animosity between Derry and Tyrone players and fans, the manager doesn’t see that as a problem. He sees the potential and believes he has the know-how to get his next-door-neighbors up the steps of the Hogan Stand next year to win their first All Ireland since 1993 in the Anthony Tohill era under the management of the incomparable Eamonn Coleman.