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Armagh hero McEntee relishing Mayo move


Big test: Tony McEntee is up for his new challenge in Mayo

Big test: Tony McEntee is up for his new challenge in Mayo

©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

Big test: Tony McEntee is up for his new challenge in Mayo

Tony McEntee, an All-Ireland winner with Armagh in 2002, is settling into his new role as coach to the Mayo senior football team.

Manager Stephen Rochford did not take time to warm the hot seat before confirming that McEntee would be an integral part of his backroom team.

McEntee - who won 12 Armagh championship medals, seven Ulster honours and two All-Ireland gongs as a player with Crossmaglen Rangers - is expected to bring a fresh dimension to the Connacht champions' bid to collect the Sam Maguire Cup for the first time since 1951.

As manager, McEntee steered Rangers to three Ulster crowns and two All-Ireland titles, these statistics in particular serving to convince Rochford that the former Orchard County defender can help him plot a new era for Mayo.

Rochford was ushered into pole position after the Mayo players lost confidence in Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly, thus forcing their resignations last month.

And now that McEntee has tied the knot with Mayo, he will have an important part to play in their efforts to go the extra mile along the championship route.

Total dominance of the Connacht championship in the past five years, initially under former boss James Horan and then under Holmes and Connelly, comes nowhere near sating the voracious appetite of the Mayo faithful and this underlines the enormity of the task now confronting McEntee and his colleagues.

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But the Rangers icon is relishing what is regarded as one of the toughest tasks in football.

"Of course it's a massive challenge but Mayo are one of the top three teams in the country. If I did not say 'yes' now, I might live to regret it. I am looking forward immensely to working with the players," said McEntee.

Last Sunday he severed his connection with the St Brigid's club in Dublin he had been managing of and has already applied himself enthusiastically to his new duties.

"I will be overseeing the fitness and coaching of the Dublin-based Mayo players on one mid-week night and Donie Buckley will look after the home-based players and then we will both get together with the entire squad for at least two weekend sessions in Mayo and that should help to bring things on," he said.

McEntee has long since been captivated by the spirit, loyalty and warmth of Mayo's huge army of fans.

"They are proud football people. The All-Ireland title is their hearts' desire and obviously we need no reminding of just what they want delivered," he added.