Belfast Telegraph

Declan Bogue: Those family ties ensure club scene will always shine

By Declan Bogue

When Slaughtneil boss Mickey Moran writes out his team on paper and begins the process of dissecting what All-Ireland final rivals Dr Crokes will do, he will attempt to enter the mind of opposing manager Pat O'Shea.

And not for the first time. When Moran was part of a root and branch overhaul of the coaching structures of his home club Watty Graham's, Glen, he invited the former Kerry All-Ireland-winning manager for a weekend in south Derry to pick all the locks to his store of football knowledge.

The two are remarkably similar in many ways. Moran was part of the Derry management team that won the Oak Leaf County's only All-Ireland Championship in 1993. O'Shea (above) took over from Jack O'Connor as Kerry manager and retained Sam for the Kingdom in 2007.

Neither of them are conducting any media interviews ahead of Friday's decider. Moran stopped granting them a few years ago after a triple by-pass operation, while O'Shea feels that his day job as a Munster Council coach prevents him from being in the public eye too much.

Club football has always had the capacity to generate great stories of brothers and cousins playing alongside each other for the parish. Furthermore, we get some delicious match-ups when the likes of Slaughtneil - a tiny country place, self-defined by Brendan Rogers as a 'thran' crowd - come up against the city slickers of St Vincent's in an All-Ireland semi-final, or the Killarney townies of Dr Crokes on the biggest day of them all.

This game brings us two intriguing father-son combinations with regards to Moran and O'Shea.

After the review of best practice in the Glen, they went about their business in a methodical, clear-headed way. While Enda Gormley - another hero of 1993 - remains the most visible face of their under-age revolution, Moran's son Antoin was an important part of getting the nuts and bolts together.

Since then, Glen have dominated under-age football not just in Derry, but in Ulster. A couple of weeks ago their Under-21s won the Ulster Under-21 Club title for the third successive year, beating a fancied Crossmaglen side in the final.

The club have never won a senior County Championship, but that could all change soon, especially if Conor Glass decides his future is not with Hawthorn in Australian Rules.

With Crokes, O'Shea was a neat and tidy ball player. Skilful, with the vision that playing international basketball brings. Like many in Killarney, his face did not fit with the county team.

But one young lad took notice of him, his movement and spatial awareness, and most importantly, his balance. Exactly 25 years to the day since Colm Cooper was mascot for Dr Crokes when they beat Thomas Davis of Dublin, he is back as one of the finest exponents of the game.

One of the young men in the Crokes line-up is Pat's son Gavin O'Shea, whose fortuitous goal against Corofin made all the difference in the semi-final.

When he won the All-Ireland as Kerry manager in 2007, Pat O'Shea had a lovely embrace with Gavin on the pitch. Now Gavin is the wispy forward in Crokes' attacking arsenal.

No size at all, yet crafty, clever, elusive.

Just as Cooper studied Pat, Gavin studied Cooper.

Fathers and sons. Family connections.

That's why the club scene will always be relevant.

Calling the shots

Ulster U-21 Football Championship

TYRONE v DONEGAL

(Wednesday, Healy Park, 8.00pm)

By now there is very little that Tyrone manager Feargal Logan and Donegal manager Declan Bonner do not know about each other’s teams.

This will be the third consecutive time the two have met in the Ulster under-21 Championship and the rivalry between these two counties has is compelling no matter the grade.

Logan’s Tyrone - with Brian Dooher and Peter Canavan as his selectors and Peter Donnelly over their training - have the confidence of knowing they have won the last two encounters, including the 2015 Ulster final.

Bonner has had a frustrating build-up. With Rory Gallagher undergoing a huge rebuilding job in the county, quite a number of the under-21s have been double-booked this year.

With a number of injuries to key players such as Jason McGee and Ciaran Gillespie, their task appears too tall.

VERDICT: Tyrone

 

Ulster U-21 FC

FERMANAGH v CAVAN

(Wednesday, Brewster Park, 8.00pm)

In the wider Cavan underage story of recent years, Brewster Park has been particularly kind to them.

It was there in 2011 when a team captained by senior captain Gearoid McKiernan beat Tyrone to prompt a four-in-a-row of titles.

With Niall Lynch over the team for the second consecutive year, they have a bit of star-quality back in their ranks. An unusual occurance where the joint MacRory Cup winning St Patrick’s Cavan captains Pierce Smith (Cavan) and Cian McManus (Fermanagh) will be up against each other.

Fermanagh have senior manager Pete McGrath stretching himself to take this grade also. In recent challenge matches they have been far from impressive and it could be a long evening ahead of them. 

VERDICT: Cavan

 

Ulster U-21 FC

ARMAGH v DOWN

(Wednesday, Athletic Grounds, 8.00pm)

Given the talent that was engaged with the Sigerson-winning St Mary’s side and the Crossmaglen outfit that reached the Ulster under-21 final, it should come as no surprise that Orchard manager Peter McDonnell (below) was exasperated at the lack of time he has got with his players prior to this derby encounter.

Down suffered a humiliating 20-point defeat to Armagh hands in the corresponding fixture last year. The noises out of the Mourne county suggests that Conor Deegan’s charges are lacking in physicality.

VERDICT: Armagh

 

Ulster U-21 FC

MONAGHAN v DERRY

(Wednesday,  Inniskeen, 8.00pm)

Derry manager Fergal P McCusker had plenty of opportunity to pick out the glaring faults in defending Ulster champions Monaghan as they produced an off-colour performance against Antrim last week.

However, he has been hamstrung with the unavailability of four key Slaughtneil men. With Glen going on to win the Ulster under-21 title and a number of players drafted into the seniors, they are ‘behind the 8 ball’. Travelling to Inniskeen won’t help either.

VERDICT: Monaghan

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