Search icon


19th Sep 2023

Former Tyrone star Kyle Coney reacts to “surreal” Mickey Harte Derry switch

Lee Costello

“There’s not a chance in hell.”

In an exclusive interview with SportsJOE, former Tyrone star Kyle Coney has reacted to the news that his ex-manager Mickey Harte will take the vacant Derry job.

Coney, who is a co-commentator on RTÉ Radio and frequently joins the GAA Hour podcast as a guest, played under Harte for the entirety of his inter-county career. Harte’s assistant coach Gavin Devlin is a fellow clubman in Coney’s native Ardboe, as well as the current manager of the side’s senior team, which the forward still plays on.

Devlin had been managing Ardboe and assisting Harte with the Louth inter-county team before news broke last night that the pair have left their positions with the Leinster side, and are set to take jobs in the Oakleaf county.

Chrissy McKaigue who currently plays for Derry has also been helping Devlin coach the Tyrone club as they prepare for the championship this week, so there were several links between players and the new management.

“I’m not going to tell you a word of a lie, I actually heard this on Sunday,” said Coney.

“Someone told me on Sunday that Mickey Harte is in the running for the Derry job. My exact words to this person were ‘there is not a chance in hell’ and I never repeated it, never said it to anyone, and when the news came out last night that man sent me a WhatsApp with a laughing face and a thumbs up, so so he obviously knows something, or somebody told him something somewhere.

“I was taken back by the news obviously, probably just how out of the blue it was because normally throughout the different bits and pieces like Jim McGuinness going back to Donegal, that was probably out a few weeks before – is he returning, is he not returning?

“There was talk and speculation but with this there was absolutely nothing, and I think that’s what’s caught so many people off guard.”

The news broke when Louth released a statement confirming that Harte and Devlin had left their positions with the county.

“You would imagine that Louth are left pretty high and dry now; from my knowledge there was work being done, there were gym programmes and different bits and pieces being done within Louth.

“I think it’s come out of the blue for all parties, and now Louth are having to go and look for a replacement for Mickey and Gavin, because it’s obviously news for them as well and they now have to go and source a new manager.”

As a former Tyrone player and lifelong fan of the county, Coney attempted to explain how bizarre, shocking and unexpected this news is.

“I played under Mickey for a number of years and Gavin Devlin is a neighbour of mine, and he came in as well, so it will be a very surreal image seeing Harte on the sideline for Derry because it’s not something that anyone would ever have pictured.

“He was the manager to win Tyrone three All-Irelands, and was there for 18 seasons – if you had to imagine someone at inter-county level, and even club level with Errigal Ciaran, Mickey Harte would be at the forefront of that.

“It’s something that is going to take a bit of getting used to, it’s not something that I ever thought I would see, but I suppose whenever these opportunities come around, Mickey obviously still has the hunger to succeed at the highest level.

“Maybe he thought that he had taken Louth as far as they could go, he has seen an opportunity with Derry, how they were well in the game last year against Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final, and maybe how a few decisions late on hampered themselves.

“I would think that he sees this is an opportunity, and he will probably see this as a chance to come up against Tyrone now. Obviously Louth are in Division Two so now he will definitely meet Tyrone in the league and you can be as sure as hell that when the draw is done in a few months that it will be a Tyrone v Derry match in the first round of the Ulster championship.”

Derry star McKaigue has been coaching Coney and his teammates for the past few weeks, but Coney insists that there was no hint from him or the management that suggested this move was in the works.

Mickey HarteKyle Coney in action against Derry under Mickey Harte.

“Absolutely not, that was stuff that will be kept well away from club training in fairness, we would never chat about any of that kind of stuff.

“It’s widely known that Chrissy McKaigue is in with Gavin doing some coaching with ourselves this last eight weeks or so, and that link was already there with Slaughtneil.

“Gavin was a part of the coaching staff at Slaughtneil a few years ago, coaching them to a championship, so there is a link there with Slaughtneil players like Shane McGuigan and Brendan Rogers etc.

“They have openly said that they have a lot of time for Gavin Devlin, I’ve listened to podcasts on various networks where the lads have spoke, Chrissy as well, and they have a lot of time for Gavin.

“I can only take it firsthand the coach that he is – if he’s not in the top two or three coaches in Ireland, then there’s something badly wrong.

Mickey Harte

“That’s the experience that I’ve had – every single night he brings the energy, he brings the enthusiasm, and if players are not at his standard, it’s stopped and it’s asked why, so that’s what Derry can expect.”

It’s not just Tyrone fans who are upset, as some Derry fans, most notably Joe Brolly, have taken to social media to express their disappointment in this move, citing that they don’t think Harte is the man for the job.

“I suppose what those Derry fans (who aren’t in favour of Harte joining) would be eluding to is what Tyrone fans would have been talking about for a number of years before Mickey did end up departing – Tyrone hadn’t got over the line in the big games, the top four or five teams like Mayo, Dublin, Kerry etc, and maybe some of those Derry fans are thinking that if Mickey hasn’t got over the line on those times, then it’s a concern.

“Yes he’s taken Louth to a certain degree, and improved them massively, but Derry don’t see themselves in the same bracket as Louth, they see themselves as All-Ireland semi-finalists, and Ulster champions two years in a row.

“So maybe that’s what some of those Derry fans are thinking – has he evolved? Has he brought his thinking on, and bought into the new style of play? Has he evolved with the times at the elite level because Louth are probably below that bracket?

“What I can say is Mickey will bring a huge level of detail, it will be hugely intense, there will be loads of work done behind the scenes, and no stone will be left unturned, so it will be a hugely entertaining county season, especially in Ulster where it’s already the most competitive province by far.”

Related links:

WATCH: Liverpool BOTTLED the title race 🤬 | Who will win the Premier League?