Errigal Ciaran skipper Enda McGinley admits that the decision of team manager Ronan McGuckin to stand down for the Ulster Club championship quarter-final against Ballinderry on Sunday week "came like a bolt out of the blue."
Tyrone triple All-Ireland winner McGinley has already led Errigal Ciaran to the Tyrone title, their first in six years and had shared in the team’s buoyancy and optimism following their facile 4-15 to 1-7 victory over Cavan champions Mullahoran in the preliminary round of the Ulster series on Sunday.
But scarcely had the full-time whistle sounded than the players discovered McGuckin would not be at the helm of operations for the clash with the Derry champions Ballinderry at Healy Park, Omagh — a plum tie in the competition.
McGuckin is a member of the Ballinderry club and rendered outstanding service to their senior side for many years alongside his brother Adrian with both sharing in the club’s All-Ireland triumph in 2002.
Now he feels he is in an invidious position and, obviously reluctant to attempt to plot the downfall of his ‘own’ club, has decided to temporarily take a back seat.
McGinley, meanwhile, is coming to terms with the fact that his side will now have to respond to an extra challenge as they prepare to cross swords with Ballinderry.
“Ronan is a phenomenal manager, there is no other way to describe him,” states McGinley, a physiotherapist. “Ever since he came to Errigal Ciaran, he has impressed us all by the manner in which he can assess opponents, outline his strategy and invariably get things right.
“He is very much like Jim McGuinness in many ways. He has surrounded himself with a good management team and he calls the shots as he sees them. He inspires confidence and commitment.”
McGinley is adamant, though, that the players can rise to the occasion against Ballinderry.
“You would have to say that we had a very sobering meeting after the match against Mullahoran on Sunday,” he explains, “But while Ronan’s decision to opt out of the Ballinderrry game was like a bolt from the blue, we have to be fair.
“It is my understanding that when he came to us he had made mention to our officers of the fact that if we were ever to meet Ballinderry along the way it would be a problem for him.
“I suppose you could say that while no one ever envisaged that the teams would be drawn against each other, the fact that this has now happened presents us with a big challenge and it’s one for which we must be ready.”
Assistant manager Tom McDermott is now poised to take command for the meeting with the Derry champions and McGinley feels he is well-equipped for the challenge.
“It’s probably coming a bit soon for him but I went to university with Tom and he’s a very solid man. We are both 31 but he has acquired a considerable knowledge and I have no doubt that he will put this to good use in the context of the Ballinderry game,” adds McGinley. McDermott himself is relishing the prospect of striving to take Errigal into the last four of the Ulster series.
“While we were delighted to get past Mullahoran on Sunday last, we know that it will be a different challenge the next day against Ballinderry,” asserts McDermott. “It is really going to step up from here on in as we are now confronted by a massive task and the players themselves are very aware of that. But it is a match to which we are looking forward with great enthusiasm.
“These are the sort of challenges that you prepare yourself for as a player and it’s great to be involved in such an important game at this stage of the year.”
Mullahoran’s image takes battering in Breffni battle
By John Campbell
The Football Review Committee and its chairman Eugene McGee might well have assimilated considerable information that might have facilitated their ongoing discussions had they taken in the Errigal Ciaran v Mullahoran Ulster Club Football Championship preliminary round tie on Sunday.
Pulling and dragging, off-the-ball incidents, blocking runs, snide punches and, just for good measure, a waste product receptacle hurled at players during the interval encompassed just about everything that GAA chiefs are battling so earnestly against just now.
Paul Brady may have distinguished himself in the past by winning world handball titles but the 31-year-old Mullahoran player entered sport’s murky underworld when he struck one of the youngest players in the Errigal Ciaran side — an act that quite rightly earned him a red card, his ‘reward’ for eight minutes of action.
Overworked referee Padraig Hughes would not have been out of order had he served another couple of Mullahoran players with straight ‘reds’ such was their indiscipline and cavalier attitude towards the playing rules.
The Ulster Council is likely to view the official video recording and Mullahoran may well face further censure. Quite why a side that had just won the Cavan title should immerse themselves almost totally in negative ploys remains a mystery — the image of both club and county has been savagely tarnished.
GAA presidents, including the present incumbent of the highest office Liam O’Neill, have made it quite clear that the manner in which games are presented is of particular relevance in terms of the image, tradition and status of the association. What was presented at Kingspan Breffni Park did nothing to enhance the GAA — and Mullahoran must take the lion’s share of the blame for this.
Let’s just hope that this was our overall ration of rancour for this year’s Ulster Club Championship.