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Big day ahead for Donnelly in his coaching development

Huge game: Derry U-20 manager Mickey Donnelly
Huge game: Derry U-20 manager Mickey Donnelly

By Declan Bogue

Another landmark in the coaching career of Mickey Donnelly comes today when he gets to share a sideline with 2014 All-Ireland winning Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice.

The management of St Ronan's of Lurgan is listed in every match programme as Donnelly, along with joint-managers Colm McAree and Davy Wilson, the man who should be the footnote of the Armagh success story of the '90s and '00s given his crucial intervention in an early round of the 1999 Ulster Championship.

But Donnelly is the most experienced of these managers, having won county Championships with Mayobridge, reaching county finals with Ardboe and All-Ireland finals with the Tyrone minor team.

Right now, he is a busy man. As well as overseeing a huge amount of the underage development work in his own club Aghaloo O'Neill's, he is in his first season as manager of the Derry Under-20 side and has picked up league titles in his current role as Ballybay manager in Monaghan.

But it is in harnessing the potential of St Ronan's, an amalgamation school with 1,400 pupils, that has represented his most high-profile achievement to date.

He leads his team into battle at 2pm today in Abbotstown against Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne of Dingle.

Along with Fitzmaurice on the line is former Kerry midfielder Tommy Griffin.

They won the Hogan Cup title in 2014 and 2015, and since then St Brendan's of Killarney have taken ownership.

The last time the Hogan Cup spent any time outside of Kerry was with the great St Patrick's Maghera side of 2013, with Conor Glass and others.

And all that, despite the Dingle school boasting no more male pupils than just over 200.

How can that be? One theory suggested to me this week is because Kerry are reputedly doing more development squad work than any other county in Ireland - with twice-weekly sessions.

This all follows, of course, the famous line offered by one prominent pundit that the Kerry production line had ground to a halt, a proclamation reached after a few, early, iffy league performances by the county senior team.

If so, then it certainly is one in the eye for those that are openly stating development squads is somehow at the root of Derry's problems right now.

Belfast Telegraph

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