Belfast Telegraph

Declan Bogue: Much to admire as McGuckin sits on the sidelines

Ballinderry manager Martin McKinless has won a total of seven Championships with his beloved Shamrocks, at junior and senior level. His latest triumph came last Sunday.

Brian McIver has won the All-Ireland club Championship with the Shamrocks and been manager of Donegal. He is now Derry manager. He also was in the Down backroom team that got to an All-Ireland final.

Adrian McGuckin is familiar to many as the man who established a tradition of footballing excellence in St Pat's, Maghera, leading them to many memorable triumphs. He served in McIver's backroom at Donegal and nowadays gets his kicks as manager of UUJ's Sigerson team.

With all this managerial talent in one club, it was no surprise that a young coach like Ronan McGuckin (right) might have to go outside Ballinderry to be involved in Gaelic football at a high level. And after impressing at Derrylaughan, Errigal Ciaran came calling. He agreed, but with a condition; that if Errigal were ever to cross swords with Ballinderry, he wouldn't be plotting against the men whom he had soldiered with.

There is much to admire in McGuckin's stance, as uncomfortable as it might be for supporters of Errigal Ciaran.

Some may even be angry that a man who was entrusted to do a job could sideline himself in this way. In the era of the outside manager, something like this was always going to occur at some stage.

Others have gone through the process of playing against, and beating your own. As Cavan manager, Martin McHugh had a difficult evening in the 1997 Ulster semi-final when they beat Donegal, a victory McHugh would not celebrate.

Perhaps the most striking example of it happened when Brian McIver was managing Donegal against Derry in the 2008 Ulster Championship. His son Michael was making his Derry Championship debut and the Oak Leafers prevailed.

But for their clubmate McGuckin, that situation was intolerable.

Last week this paper ran an interview with Ronan, and brought up the fact that while he was managing Errigal against Mullahoran in the Ulster club preliminary round, he would be missing Ballinderry's county final against Slaughtneil.

It would be the first Ballinderry game he would miss since 1997, he explained. Before that, you had to go back to 1991. Astonishing.

At his first meeting with the Errigal players, McGuckin promised them that the O'Neill Cup would return to Dunmoyle. At the victorious homecoming, he also explained from his position on the back of a trailer at Gormley's corner that he never needed to come to Ballygawley to make friends, as he 'had enough friends in Ballinderry'.

The Errigal players laughed at that one. Being a gregarious sort, McGuckin calls all his players 'buddy', and they began to repeat the word back to him.

He then lauded the contribution of 'my favourite buddy', team trainer Tommy McDermott. He recalled many conversations over the course of the year when McDermott would mention his dream of being involved in managing an Errigal team to a Championship.

Going down the tunnel of Breffni Park, McGuckin abdicated his throne, saying, “it's over to you Tommy”, after he heard the Derry final result.

“In all of what Ronan has done this year”, said Errigal captain McGinley, “when he's talking to us in meetings, he's very proud of us, but he has never hidden or attempted to hide the fact that he is a Ballinderry man to the core.”

It's an impossible position McGuckin finds himself in, but sometimes, it's refreshing to see an example of the ultimate devotion to your club.

Belfast Telegraph

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