Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA

Logan will lay down the law

By Declan Bogue

It made for glorious television and drama. Tyrone manager Feargal Logan stood in the evening sunshine at Markievicz Park after seeing his under-21 side beat Roscommon to get to today's All-Ireland final against Tipperary (6.00pm). He had opinions. Strong ones.

A bookies' pricing system got a touch, a newspaper preview that failed to mention a Tyrone player by name was referenced, before he finished with a glorious flourish: "People who are kicking Tyrone football, keep kicking because the more you kick, the more we will kick back."

Sitting in the offices of his busy solicitors' practice earlier this week, he smiles at the question of what the ratio between head and heart his reaction owed.

"Self-respect begins at home so there was an element of that. There also was an element addressing the kickers of Tyrone football and its personnel," he begins.

"That was close after the game and you might say, 'well Feargal, take a wee half hour here', but sometimes you just have to set things out as they are. Whether it comes back to bite me or not, I set it out."

Still, in a time of faux election promises, it is very refreshing to see somebody lay their soul bare and go with their gut.

"It's reflective of the collective endeavour that has gone into this thing," Logan explains. "To be honest, outside of that group at this point, I don't care."

Outside of Sean O'Neill, Tony Hanahoe, Eoin Brosnan of Kerry, Antrim's John Finucane and Fermanagh's Niall Bogue, it's hard to name many GAA solicitors. Because of his involvement in some high-profile DRA cases, Logan may be the most well-known solicitor in the GAA.

The long hours and unpredictable nature of the job don't lend themselves to the demanding mistress of county football.

He explains: "I would be telling you a lie if I told you it isn't a challenge when you have professional obligations, self-employed in a law practice with a number of people on board.

"Sometimes, like all of us in this life, you wonder how you end up in these positions; number one, your job, number two, your sporting commitments.

"In one sense it is a good position to be in - a busy practice and hopefully a busy football schedule. The counter-argument is that if I am on my own sitting in a room watching TV I would be bored within an hour, so I might as well get on with it."

He admits he had no great managerial aspirations. After he retired from playing with his club Stewartstown Harps, he was persuaded to go along with Adrian Cush and manage Donaghmore for a couple of seasons. He had been living in the area for years, married to Eileen, with their three children Conor (12), Michael (9) and Marie-Claire (7) all devoted to the club.

In November 2013, he arrived home after Donaghmore's final game of the season. He recalled: "At 45 years of age, I was quits with football and wouldn't be involved in another team of any description."

The very next day he took a call asking if he would take 48 hours to think about managing Tyrone under-21s. He took 72 hours and after discussion with Eileen, agreed.

Fast forward a few months and Tyrone were the latest side to have fallen for Cavan's house style of football, traipsing out of Breffni Park with their season over in early March.

"A stinging defeat," is how he recalls it, followed by the black hole of doubt. "It leaves you feeling fairly vulnerable, exposed and on your own. That's in your own judgment, never mind other people's judgment of you."

Perhaps some of that comes from Logan knowing what it's like to be on the losing side in an All-Ireland final. He was at midfield in the 1995 decider for Tyrone, and 10 years later full-forward when Paul Galvin and Eamonn Fitzmaurice's Finuge got the better of Stewartstown in the All-Ireland junior club final.

He does have a supporting cast of men with Celtic Crosses however, in selectors Peter Canavan and Brian Dooher. Not a bad sounding board.

"Brian's depth of knowledge of the game and how to deal with situations has been brilliant, a great help to me," he reveals.

"Peter was a footballing genius on the field and I consider him to be a football genius off it. I am happy to be in their company. It's a perfunctory relationship. We are not tootling about having the craic, really."

It's a serious business, this football.

Revisiting that evening in Sligo, it's understandable in some ways why a journalist might not name some of the Tyrone players. Sure, they have future senior players in the likes of Padraig Hampsey, talents who have already played for the senior team like Rory Brennan and Cathal McShane, and a host of players such as Lee Brennan and Danny McNulty who could achieve anything with guidance.

But they are a collective unit, something described brilliantly by captain Kieran McGeary who, in recalling the atmosphere in the dressing room before they played Armagh in the Ulster semi-final, said they were ready to "tear the walls down," after Dooher, Canavan and Logan addressed them.

It will be the same in Parnell Park this evening. Logan admits his concern over a Tipp side of many talents, not least Colin O'Riordan and Kevin O'Halloran.

But Tyrone are ready. Logan is ready. "I have always said managing Tyrone under-21s is a high-wire act," he finishes.

He's been at this height before. He knows the fall. But he wants to experience that other feeling.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph