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Gallagher calls time on his three-year Donegal reign

 

By Declan Bogue

Ulster football has lost its third inter-county manager of the summer after Rory Gallagher stepped down after three years in charge of Donegal.

The news broke after Gallagher left a message in the team WhatsApp group ahead of a county committee meeting last night.

His departure comes after those of Damian Barton (Derry) and Pete McGrath (Fermanagh).

There had been a number of sources close to the Donegal team that felt the indications were that he was going to stay on following a disappointing Championship, losing 1-21 to 1-12 in the Ulster semi-final to Tyrone and 4-17 to 0-14 to Galway in Round 4 of the qualifiers.

The Donegal panel held a players' meeting last week and had made a recommendation that Gallagher's backroom team required strengthening.

Gallagher had Brendan Kilcoyne of Sligo and former Tyrone player Richard Thornton as team trainers, along with long-time collaborator Marc 'Maxi' Curran.

However, as the year progressed it became apparent that Thornton's role was being diminished with Gallagher taking on more of the training duties.

Jack Cooney of Westmeath and the Glenswilly manager Gary McDaid had previously been on the Donegal ticket, but had left.

Having originally joined the management in 2011 under Jim McGuinness, Gallagher was given huge credit by the Donegal players when they won the 2012 All-Ireland title, before an acrimonious split with McGuinness in 2013. It seemed he was in it for the long haul last year when he signed up for a further four years in charge, with Donegal having a flood of young talent at Under-21 level, which backboned a strong National League campaign in Division One.

After the Galway defeat, Gallagher was asked if there would be knives out and replied: "Whatever comes, comes. I'm around long enough now. That's the nature of it."

He knew he was in for a tough transition job with Donegal losing the likes of Eamonn McGee, Paul Durcan, Neil Gallagher, Christy Toye and Colm McFadden after 2014 and 2015.

He was adamant that others would follow this winter, with 2012 Footballer of the Year Karl Lacey, Frank McGlynn and Neil McGee expected to leave.

The early frontrunner for his replacement will be Under-21 manager Declan Bonner, who previously held the job at the turn of the century.

A statement read: "Donegal GAA wish to confirm Rory Gallagher has stood down as senior manager. Our thanks to Rory."

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