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Derry have plenty of options as frustrated Barton exits

 

By Declan Bogue

While it would seem unlikely he will apply to get his old job back, Damian Barton leaves the Derry post after two seasons with plenty of regrets.

In a message sent by Barton to the Derry 2017 senior football team - seen by the Belfast Telegraph - he wrote: "…I/we have indicated a desire to continue for another year, not least as we are fighters who want to move Derry back to Div 2 status. Historic procedure where clubs nominate for potential candidates is what they have chosen to do. Does this indicate a vote of no confidence in management? Probably! Honestly not sure what to do at this stage."

Barton becomes the latest manager to leave the post disenchanted by a mixture of players not committing to the Oak Leaf jersey and what he described as a lack of support from clubs in the county.

His predecessor as manager, Brian McIver, has an intricate understanding of the issues in Derry football, especially given his current role as overseer of youth football, as the county board begin the hunt for the next manager.

"Not at all, but it is definitely a challenge!" said McIver when asked if the job was the proverbial 'poisoned chalice'.

"You have so many issues in Derry to get everybody onside and everybody working in the right direction. That is definitely a challenge.

"There is still loads and loads of ability, but it's about getting everybody to buy in. If a new manager can come in and do that, then it would be a big step in the right direction."

Adrian McGuckin, who has also been in the management backroom of different Derry teams, rules out promising minor manager Damian McErlain - with his family and work commitments - from becoming the next senior manager.

He has a few likely contenders however, listing: "Damian Cassidy, Joe Cassidy, Enda Gormley, Fergal P McCusker. Henry and Seamus Downey are two boys who are winners - winners in the football, winners in life as well. I could see them going in to take the thing by the scruff of the neck. They would be doing it right, wanting to win and they would take no prisoners in the process either."

While he holds massive sympathy for Barton, who managed his Ballinderry club for a few seasons in the late '90s, he feels that the position of manager is overplayed in a county that begins life in Division Three in 2018 - coincidentally the same league they were in when Eamonn Coleman took the manager's job.

"The first ingredient you need to be a good manager is good players, the better players you have it seems to be the better you are judged as a manager," stated the former Jordanstown manager.

"There is no consideration for the quality of the players you have or the time you have with them. Whenever you are middle of the road with no realistic chance of walking up steps in July and September to lift cups, it becomes increasingly harder."

For McIver, the problem of ensuring buy-in across a strong panel is not just a problem confined to the county boundaries.

"It's really not an issue just in Derry at the minute. It appears to be an issue with a lot of counties right across the board, in terms of a lot of lads are not satisfied now unless they are making the starting 15," explained the 2002 All-Ireland club winning manager.

"And I think it has something to do with almost a cultural change in how young lads see things now at the minute.

"I suppose if you are looking at it from their point of view, county football demands a tremendous amount of commitment, there is no doubt about that.

"If a lad feels that he is well down the pecking order and he is not regularly getting football, he thinks that all that commitment is not working."

The Derry County Board statement on Tuesday night was a terse one but the message is clear; they are on the lookout again for another manager.

 

CONTENDERS

The '93 captain

HENRY DOWNEY: Captain for Derry’s one and only Sam Maguire triumph, Downey’s name would be welcomed by any Oak Leaf fan over a certain age.

In more recent times he has been making his way through the ranks to senior level management with his club Lavey, linking up with his brother Seamus.

Ultimate warrior

ANTHONY TOHILL: Another of the heroes of ‘93, Tohill has enormous respect throughout the game, though he doesn’t have a great deal of managerial experience.

He has been involved in Swatragh youth coaching and previously led Ireland to victory as International Rules manager.

Man most likely

PAUL McIVER: A son of previous manager Brian, Paul McIver is a familiar face having been part of the Ballinderry management and the county Under-21s boss.

At present he is continuing Kilcoo’s fine run of Down Championships but teaches in Derry.

Belfast Telegraph

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