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Derry will take time in appointing successor to McErlain

Moving on: Damian McErlain has called time on his role as Derry manager having served two years of his three-year term
Moving on: Damian McErlain has called time on his role as Derry manager having served two years of his three-year term
John Campbell

By John Campbell

The Derry county board will not be rushed into appointing a successor to senior football boss Damian McErlain, who has stepped down from his post.

The Magherafelt man had served two years of his three-year term but decided to call time on his role, citing "personal circumstances".

Derry won promotion from Division Four of the Allianz League this year and beat Leitrim in the divisional final before losing to Tyrone in their Ulster Championship opener and then bowing out of the All-Ireland qualifiers to Laois at Owenbeg.

It is understood that this defeat triggered a bout of soul-searching for McErlain, which resulted in his resignation.

"I am extremely proud to have managed my county at both minor and senior level but for now it's time to move on," said McErlain.

Already there is considerable speculation within Derry as to just who might succeed McErlain.

Malachy O'Rourke, who has just stood down as Monaghan manager, is among those being touted for the post, while Damian Cassidy and Peter Doherty are other names being mentioned as potential candidates.

O'Rourke spent seven years at the Monaghan helm before resigning after the team lost to Armagh earlier in the summer and his experience and motivational skills would certainly be valuable assets were he to lob his hat into the ring.

He has considerable experience of Derry club football in particular, having managed the Loup club.

Indeed, he has an impressive track record in club management having been with Tyholland (Monaghan), Errigal Ciaran and Cavan Gaels at different stages in the past.

He was previously interviewed for the Derry post before he took up his position with Monaghan, who are currently in the process of making arrangements to facilitate the appointment of his successor.

Cassidy was a member of the Oak Leaf side that won the county's only All-Ireland title to date in 1993 and since then he has accumulated huge experience of management at club and county levels.

He guided Bellaghy to the Derry Championship title before taking over at Clonoe and masterminding Tyrone Championship success.

He managed Derry at senior and Under-21 levels from 2008-2010 and is very highly regarded within the county for his tactical nous and man-management skills.

Meanwhile, Tyrone Under-20 boss Paul Devlin has an important mission to fulfil tonight when he takes in the Munster Under-20 Football Championship final between Kerry and Cork at Páirc Ui Rinn, Cork.

Devlin's Red Hands will meet the winners in the All-Ireland series and he is keen to source as much knowledge as possible.

Tyrone were rarely troubled by Derry in winning the Ulster final at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh last Sunday but Devlin is fully aware that his team will face a much bigger test on the All-Ireland stage.

"Obviously we were delighted to get our hands on the Ulster title but we maybe caught Derry on what was a bad day for them," stated Devlin.

"There is no doubt that Kerry and Cork are two counties that consistently manage to breed top-class under-age sides so we know what awaits us.

"Having said that, we will be up for the challenge, there's no doubt about that."

With Kerry having dominated the All-Ireland minor scene in recent years, several players who came through the ranks at that level are now in the U20 set-up.

Kerry are particularly well served in attack where Donal O'Sullivan, Fiachra Clifford and Cathal Ferriter form a lethal full-forward line, while Cork too possess plenty of firepower with Mark Cronin, Cathal O'Mahoney and Damien Gore to the fore in their attack.

Devlin is aware that his defence could face a tough test irrespective of who his side will meet but he still believes they will be capable of dealing with whatever is put in front of them.

"We have a bit of everything in this Tyrone team and they work to their overall strengths which is pleasing," stated Devlin.

"That's what you have to do, especially when you get to the All-Ireland stages of any competition. You always know you're going to encounter quality opposition and you have to be prepared for this.

"While winning in Ulster is a big boost, the real challenge for us is to build on this."

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