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Why Antrim chief Enda McGinley was always primed to succeed as a coach

Former team-mates not surprised that former Tyrone star’s leadership skills have come to the fore again

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Words of wisdom: Antrim boss Enda McGinley talks to his players. Credit: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

Words of wisdom: Antrim boss Enda McGinley talks to his players. Credit: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

©INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

Enda McGinley lifts the Tyrone Championship trophy in 2012. Credit: INPHO/Presseye/Andrew Paton

Enda McGinley lifts the Tyrone Championship trophy in 2012. Credit: INPHO/Presseye/Andrew Paton

©INPHO/Presseye/Andrew Paton

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Words of wisdom: Antrim boss Enda McGinley talks to his players. Credit: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

This Sunday, the three Tyrone lads in the Antrim tracksuits might peer down the sideline in The Athletic Grounds and take in the sight of two others in a similar position; Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney and his assistant, the former Kerry forward Kieran Donaghy.

Championship days are no time to be whimsical, but for Enda McGinley and Stephen O’Neill, they might wonder where all the years have gone since they were facing McGeeney as the Armagh captain in the 2003 All-Ireland final.

The third Antrim man, Stephen Quinn, is a sign of McGinley holding true to what he believes in as he takes his first steps in the unforgiving world of intercounty management.

For his former colleagues, there is little surprise that he went down that road.

“With Enda, when he was talking, he was always the first to roll up the sleeves,” says Peter Canavan, who was Tyrone captain in 2003 and his clubmate through many a battle.

“When it came to the heavy work and the donkey work, for the want of a better expression, while he was capable of scoring goals and points, like (Brian) Dooher he was able to roll the sleeves up and do whatever had to be done to get across the line.

“His talk is not cheap.”

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Sometimes county team-mates can be removed from each other at club level, especially if they do not spend time with each other. But Canavan spent several times a week with McGinley for a decade chasing titles for Tyrone and Errigal Ciaran. The odd drought was nothing new to either of them while he managed him at club level in 2010 and 2011.

“It was the same with Errigal, from winning in 2006, we had to wait until 2012 to win another and Enda persevered and stayed on with another group of younger boys until they got over the line,” Canavan says.

“He has a great understanding of the game and well able to get his point across. It is obvious he has made a really good start, Antrim gaining promotion out of Division Four was no certainty.”

Altogether, the men that McGinley played under is some roster.

At 10-years-old, he was playing for Errigal under-14s. His manager was Mickey Harte. From he was 16, he was playing for a Harte team in one guise or another until he came 32 and retired from county football.

Canavan, Malachy O’Rourke and 2008 Ulster title winning manager Peter McDonnell were all over him at various stages.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be under a lot of great managers, be it at club or university and places like that,” McGinley said in the build-up to this game.

“So you take wee bits away from all of them and I suppose the biggest thing that I would have learned — and I was lucky enough to win stuff across all grades and levels under a lot of different men — was that they all managed very, very differently.

Referring to McDonnell in particular, he said: “Some couldn’t give a damn about League games, some were all about Championship, some wanted to run you up mountains, some never wanted to run you at all — everything had to be ball work.

“Some were massively defensive, some were all about expressing yourselves and everything in between and we won stuff under all of them different approaches so the biggest thing for me, you had to be genuine to yourself.

“There was no point trying to act like some previous manager. You had to be genuine to yourself and play the game as you see it or try to get your team to play it as you see it and that hopefully will suit them.”

Being genuine, being authentic was important to him as he captured a Tyrone minor title with his club, before taking Derry side Swatragh for two seasons before he took up with Antrim.

“He was always going to fall into management,” says his former team-mate Davy Harte.

“He is a natural leader obviously.

"That would have been very evident in his time, especially as captain, he was a leader on the pitch in terms of performance but also just the way he conducted himself and the standards he demanded of everybody. The way that he spoke, he made a real impact.

“So it was inevitable when we walked out that teams would approach him. It is no surprise to see him as a boss and being successful after his playing career.”


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