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Declan Bogue: Clubs have embarrassment of riches

Jump to it: Kilcoo are in good shape for the Ulster Club Final thanks to the efforts of legendary coach Mickey Moran
Jump to it: Kilcoo are in good shape for the Ulster Club Final thanks to the efforts of legendary coach Mickey Moran
Mickey Moran
Martin Regan
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Around about this time, any number of club sides are getting new management teams in place.

For those that are continuing from last year, quite a few are in the process of commencing their strength and conditioning programmes over the winter, while at the same time county teams have all gone back into pre-season preparation.

Some years back after winning an All-Ireland title, Dublin manager Jim Gavin was asked about how his side would retain their title the following year. He made the point that some teams were already hard at work preparing for the following season, so in that respect Dublin were already behind some of their competitors. At the time, it was greeted with a few sniggers, but as time has gone on, it looks now to be an extremely sharp point.

The efforts that county teams are willing to go to are now closely followed by the very best club teams. Indeed, some club sides will surpass the odd county in terms of what they can collectively bring.

A closer look at the teams in the Ulster Club finals this weekend will show that this level of achievement does not come by accident.

Down's Kilcoo and Naomh Conaill of Donegal are in the Senior final, while the Intermediate final will be contested by Galbally of Tyrone and Monaghan side Magheracloone.

While Kilcoo are much more road-tested than Naomh Conaill, there are reasons for this.

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For the last number of years, their strength and conditioning work has been overseen by Ollie Cummings. A colleague in journalism asks in jest if anyone involved in strength and conditioning can ever be described as anything but 'highly-rated', but Cummings - who will be doing the same function for the Derry seniors now under Rory Gallagher - is rated as perhaps one of the best in Ireland, if not further afield.

On the sideline, they have Mickey Moran. His record is astonishing, from bringing Omagh St Enda's to a Tyrone title in 1988, to coaching the Derry side that won the All-Ireland in 1993, right through to his modern successes with Slaughtneil.

Not only that, but he is assisted by Conleith Gilligan who, quite apart from his own record as a player in this competition with Ballinderry, has extensive experience coaching with Derrytresk and Coalisland as well as dipping in with Naomh Conaill for a season. They also have Paul Devlin of Ballinascreen in the coaching ticket.

Now, take a look at what they have inside the white lines.

Their own captain Conor Laverty has spent the last several years working as the GAA Promotions Officer in Trinity College, Dublin. Try to imagine how many times he has conducted training sessions there alone, quite apart from the work he does with underage teams in the club.

Last year, Derry thought enough of him to bring him in to beef up their coaching team as they approached the Championship.

That came off the back of a period working with St Michael's Enniskillen. With his coaching, they achieved MacRory and Hogan Cups.

And when this run ends for him, it will be straight into coaching with Monaghan.

Naomh Conaill are a club synonymous with coaching, given it is the club of Jim McGuinness, one of the most innovative coaches that Gaelic football has ever seen.

So much of that coaching has been passed down the food chain to their present manager Martin Regan, who deserves great credit for having stuck at it for the last five years, bookending that spell with two Championships.

Within Galbally, the current selector Kevin Kelly was instrumental in bringing through the nucleus of the current senior team, winning 'A' grade Championships all through their underage careers.

They are backed up by incredible facilities and when it comes to the muscle side of things, former Tyrone, New York and Fermanagh player Aidan McCarron has been embedded in their set-up.

The great outlier this weekend is Magheracloone.

For the last two decades they have been a senior club in Monaghan. But last year they suffered two misfortunes. They were relegated to Intermediate, but the real tragedy was how their pitch collapsed after old mine shafts deep underground collapsed and their club rooms were split in half by the ground falling in beneath their feet.

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