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Gallagher comes full circle back to the Erne county

Derry v Kerry, All-Ireland MFC Final: Croke Park, Sunday, 1.30pm

By Declan Bogue

As exclusively revealed in last Tuesday's Belfast Telegraph, Rory Gallagher will be unveiled as the new Fermanagh manager over the next 48 hours.

Representatives of the Fermanagh county board and Gallagher met over the weekend to tie up all the remaining threads of his arrangement, and he now completes what is an unexpected twist in his career, coming full circle to manage his county.

The appointment could be announced today, though it might be more likely held over until Tuesday night at the county board meeting.

It comes just 41 days after Gallagher resigned as Donegal manager following three years in charge. He brought his adopted county - where he manages a shop in Killybegs - to two Ulster finals, losing both games to Monaghan first and then Tyrone last year.

Despite drafting on a number of promising youngsters from the county's underage teams and putting down a very impressive league campaign, Donegal had a poor Championship, losing heavily to Tyrone in Ulster and Galway in the qualifiers.

It was expected after this that Gallagher would be given plenty of patience to manage Donegal's transition with a number of their most decorated players retiring, such as Eamonn McGee, Karl Lacey, Rory Kavanagh, Neil Gallagher, Colm McFadden and Christy Toye, while the loss of goalkeeper Paul Durcan who now works in the Middle East was also a huge blow to that team.

At the end of September 2016, he was granted a further three seasons in charge of the Tir Chonaill men.

However, Gallagher felt it would be better that he left it in others' hands, denying media reports that online abuse had played a part in his decision in his statement; "I do not have Facebook or Twitter accounts. I have no interest in Social Media whatsoever. It has no impact on my life or my decision to step away from the senior team. Only the players and their families, the management and County Board officers can appreciate the effort that the 2017 squad made this season. We understand fully the road we are on. It is the beginning of a new team. It will continue to need huge levels of commitment over the next number of years."

"To the players who I have coached and managed thanks for your hunger and desire to be better for Donegal. You should be very proud of yourselves. It made the training pitch a special place to be. We have had tough days and great days. Along the way we have had lots of fun."

For his time involved in the Donegal management - he also took the county under-21 team for the 2014 season after he and McGuinness had a parting of the ways with both sides maintaining differing versions of events surrounding the split - he earned warm praise for his input.

Speaking last year, Eamon McGee stated at the time of Gallagher's contract extension: "There is no point shying away from the fact that there were a few people in Donegal GAA that wouldn't have been happy with Rory. You have to acknowledge that too. But you also have to respect the fact that the captain of the Donegal team for the last six years (Michael Murphy) and their brightest up-and-coming player (Ryan McHugh) are saying this is the man to take us forward.

"That stands for quite a bit. Believe me, he is a top quality coach that really knows the modern game. People are entitled to their opinion but at the end of the day the players are the ones working with him.

"Michael Murphy and Ryan McHugh are driven men and they wouldn't be saying keep this man on board if they didn't feel it was best for Donegal football."

So now, Fermanagh have their man. The Gallagher family are prominent in the county with Rory's brother Ronan enjoying many seasons as county goalkeeper and his cousin Raymond renowned as one of the deadliest forwards to have played in the green jersey.

Rory's father Gerry managed Fermanagh at county minor level as well as Errigal Ciaran and other clubs.

This latest appointment is the latest high-profile one by the Fermanagh county board, who have to be credited with the calibre of recent appointments.

Since the ill-fated spell of John O'Neill in 2011 when a number of senior players walked out half-way through the league campaign with complaints of falling standards, Peter Canavan and Pete McGrath have been in charge.

It was the appointment of O'Neill as manager that effectively, by Gallagher's own admission, ended his playing days with Fermanagh.

He also played Championship football with Cavan in 2007 and win an All-Ireland club title with St Gall's.

This latest move has always seemed unlikely after he took a role as Donegal assistant manager under Jim McGuinness at the tail end of 2010.

Gallagher had actually played for Fermanagh earlier that summer in Championship football as a 32-year-old, starting in the win over Cavan, and the Ulster semi-final loss to Monaghan and appearing as a substitute in their second round qualifier defeat at the hands of Armagh.

That bridged a gap of eight seasons back to when he last represented his native county. He became the highest-ever scorer in Ulster Championship history for a single game in the 2002 series when he hit 3-9 against Monaghan.

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