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09th Nov 2022

“That’s the challenge he took on at the start of the year” – McEntee on how he faced his own club

Niall McIntyre

John McEntee didn’t want to manage against Crossmaglen in the 2019 Ulster championship but as Clontibret manager, he didn’t feel like he had any other choice.

The Rangers man points out that Jerome Johnston would have faced a “more complex” situation this weekend, with three of his sons and six of his nephews on the Kilcoo team, but on the subject of managing against your own club, McEntee still veers towards the side that your job is your job.

“My perspective on it is this. You take on a job and you do it to the best of your ability,” McEntee tells SportsJOE.

“There are challenges involved always.

“Sometimes, it’s the challenge of getting the better of the opposition. Other times it’s the emotional drain of playing your friends or in this case your family so I suppose I could put a bit more credence on this – ‘I was given a job to do. I’ve to do it.’

“I didn’t take on the Clontibret job not to win a county title. Neither did the boys. In taking on that job, you put yourself at risk.”

Johnston has made the decision to step aside from his role as joint manager of the Ballybay footballers this week. He has removed himself from the team WhatsApp and won’t be attending the game. His decision has divided opinion but McEntee can see both sides.

“It leaves you in a difficult position when you go back to your club after. 90% or 95% of people might agree with what you did but some will feel aggrieved that you managed against them. But that’s the same with every choice in life.

“That’s the challenge he took on at the start of the year.”

John McEntee on the line during Clontibret v Crossmaglen. Sportsfile.

“It’s complex because he has sons involved,” McEntee adds.

“There’s one aspect playing against your own club and then another against your family.

“Johnston is obviously a dyed in the wool Kilcoo man and he’s spent his life developing his club, and developing his sons to win and achieve. They have achieved though. They were the best team in Ireland last year, an incredible side.

“So does he think that his influence on this game would have an impact on Kilcoo getting beaten in this game, or does he not want to face the emotional aspect of it. Is there something in Kilcoo that Ballybay don’t already know about? I would probably say not.

“Did my experience of Cross impact on the result in 2019? In actual fact, I think it comes down to do your players play well enough and do they follow the plan to the best of their ability?”

Clontibret defeated Cross by a single point in that 2019 clash and McEntee says that the toughest part of it all was the aftermath of the game, despite the fact that nobody in Crossmaglen had animosity towards him for his decision.

“The toughest part for me was after the game. Going down to meet the Cross players.

“I told them it was nothing personal, I was doing my job on the sideline in the same way they were doing theirs’ on the field. I never felt that I let them down or my family down.

“I just told them I didn’t want to be in this position, I’d never thought about it this far. But I wanted to do them proud by doing my job as good as I could, and they understood that too.

Meanwhile, Gaoth Dobhair duo Eamon McGee and Kevin Cassidy have backed Johnston’s decision to step aside. Plenty others have criticised it. The debate rumbles on.

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