Adrian McGuckin, one of the most respected figures within Derry and Ulster GAA, has backed Brian McIver's bid to become the new Oak Leaf manager, stating the county would “be very, very lucky if they got a manager of his calibre”.
McIver has emerged as the front runner for the job, with sources intimating that he would be the preferred choice of the county executive. The other candidates for the job vacated by John Brennan include Peter Doherty – a selector for Paddy Crozier during his term in charge, and 1993 All-Ireland winner Tony Scullion.
Former Antrim manager Liam Bradley has also received a nomination, but it is understood he is not keen on a return to inter-county management, having just ended a four-year spell with the Saffrons.
“Any one of them would make tremendous managers,” commented McGuckin, “but having worked with Brian, and what he has done with the club, knowing the person he is, the manager he is and the meticulous way he goes about his work, I would definitely be in Brian's camp.”
McIver has a track record of coaxing more out of under-achieving sides, a term that would aptly describe Derry at the present time.
As manager of his club Ballinderry Shamrocks, he won a minor Championship in 1989, and a senior title in 1995.
His standout achievement, though, came in 2002. After losing two consecutive county finals to Bellaghy, McIver led Ballinderry to the 2001 Derry Championship, before defeating Mayobridge in the Ulster final, and then going on to claim the All-Ireland Club Championship at Semple Stadium in Thurles a few months later, beating the illustrious Nemo Rangers in the final.
In September 2005, he was appointed Donegal manager. McIver invited McGuckin (pictured below) to become part of his backroom team.
They won promotion in the first year and then became the first team from the county to |win the |National League in 2007 when they beat Mayo at Croke Park. “Maybe the Championship didn't work out particularly well for Brian,” McGuckin says, “but he got to the Ulster final in his first year when Armagh beat them in Croke Park, and they were in their prime at that time.
“They beat Armagh in the first round in Ballybofey [the following year] and met Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final who were on top at that time as well. Maybe he doesn't get the best of luck in Championship, but overall I would say Brian was successful with Donegal.”
As for his managerial qualities, McGuckin enthuses: “The first thing you get with Brian is that he is a great person. A very good, honest person.
“He's totally devoted to anything he does. If he takes on something it's 100%. He has a great work ethic, nothing seems to faze him as far as work is concerned.
“He's just a great man, [he] forms great relationships with players but still can have those relationships and take no nonsense. Everybody knows exactly who the boss is, and that's a skill in itself.”
After his spell with Donegal, McIver hooked up with James McCartan in Down, ending their first season in the All-Ireland final with defeat to Cork.
Former Down player John Clarke played on that team and holds McIver in high regard.
“For the couple of years he was with Down he was of great benefit. He brought great experience and know-how. He earned respect from all the players and I think he made a big difference when he came in,” he explained.
“He knew what players' strengths and weaknesses were. If you had a weakness Brian would try and take you aside to work on those before and after training.
“He was very good at having a quiet word in your ear, telling you what you had to do to improve on, what you were doing well as well.”
Derry chiefs will meet with the managerial candidates shortly, and will seek to ascertain the composition of their backroom teams.
It seems highly likely that long-time coaching collaborater Paddy Tally will be McIver's trainer, and it is also thought that his son Paul – the current Dromore and Derry minor manager – will have a role.