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12th Sep 2023

Two front-runners for Derry job after news of Meenagh’s imminent departure

Niall McIntyre

Derry’s interim manager Ciaran Meenagh will not be staying at the helm for 2024.

Former Tyrone player Meenagh took over from Rory Gallagher mid-way through the 2023 season and went onto win an Ulster title.

He was widely praised for steadying the Derry ship as they came within whiskers of reaching an All-Ireland final. It took an inspired David Clifford to overcome them that day, in the All-Ireland semi-final, but as it turns out, that will be Meenagh’s final day on the Derry sideline.

The news of Meenagh’s imminent departure was reported in the Gaelic Life on Monday night, where it is said that he has informed the Oakleaf County board that his focus is now on managing his home club side Loughmacrory, who will begin their Tyrone championship campaign next month.

As outsiders, we were given a glimpse into Meenagh’s personable character after Derry’s loss to Kerry, when he gave a frank interview to RTÉ in the aftermath of the game.

“Since I took on the role ten weeks ago, I’ve deleted social media off my phone,” Meenagh said that day.

“I don’t read the papers. The commentary that’s out there is out there, it’s probably warranted enough.

“But we felt the commentary that was out there gave us an opportunity today, an opportunity to strike where it’s unexpected.”

“The word I used to the players in the changing room is a word I have used a lot in the last 10 weeks. The word is perspective.

“We beat Offaly 24 months ago in the Division 3 final. So you have to take into account where we came from, where Kerry were at that time, where Dublin were.

“Look at the trajectory we are on. As devastated as I am, as gutted as I am, look at where we came from.

“I started with Derry in 2019. We were in Division 4. We were going to Fraher Field. We were down in Wicklow.

“But look at where the team that has come in a short period of time. There are a lot of players in that changing room who played Division 4 football, so for every county in Ireland, I think Derry is a great example of a team that commits to each other, gets their house in order and does things right over a period of time.

“We give great hope to everyone else as well.”

Meenagh, who had worked under Gallagher as a selector was praised by Derry player Brendan Rogers recently for the job he has done. With Meenagh’s imminent departure, the Derry job now becomes the biggest available job in football and in Paddy Bradley and Malachy O’Rourke, there are two obvious front-runners.

Bradley, the Derry legend, experienced a similar season to Meenagh in that, mid-way through the season, he was thrust from selector to joint-manager in his role with Donegal. The Glenullin club-man did help galvanise the squad in that time-frame but, with Jim McGuinness’ return, would appear now to be available again.

The front-runner, however, is Malachy O’Rourke, the former two-time Ulster title winning Monaghan manager and current Glen boss. His credentials are impeccable but it remains to be seen if he would leave the Watty Graham’s club, who came agonisingly close to winning an All-Ireland club last year.

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