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Managerial trio in the dock after All-Ireland exits

By John Campbell

Three Ulster managers find themselves at a crossroads now that their teams have been summarily despatched from the All-Ireland football qualifiers.

But while speculation will inevitably surround the futures of John Brennan (Derry), James McCartan (Down) and Paddy O'Rourke (Armagh), their respective county boards would do well to absorb some salient facts.

Brennan took Derry to within touching distance of promotion to Division One of the National League before guiding his side to their first Ulster final since 2000.

Defeats to Donegal in the provincial decider and to Kildare in the qualifiers on Saturday should not be allowed to cloud the fact that he has brought Derry a significant distance down the road to progress, and in the process he has unearthed some exciting talent including Danny Devlin, Michael Friel and Caolan O'Boyle.

Right now, Brennan admits he is "disillusioned with football" and confesses that he has reservations about officialdom, but while his trademark ebullience may be somewhat blunted he is still capable of plotting an even more successful course for Derry.

McCartan has spent two years pulling Down up by their bootlaces but the Ulster championship setback against Armagh and the tame surrender to Cork in the qualifiers at the weekend have obviously dented his optimism.

Injuries have impacted on his playing resources virtually since the start of the year and forced him into amending his squad.

A fiery competitor during his distinguished playing career when he won two All-Ireland medals, McCartan was disappointed with the lack of bite his side showed in this year's championship after reaching last year's final.

Nonetheless he possesses the experience, tactical know-how and motivational skills to rekindle the vibrancy and belief that were key components of his squad's psyche in 2010 - Down can ill-afford to lose him.

The question mark hanging over O'Rourke's future as Armagh boss is perhaps the biggest of all.

His team's collapse against Derry in the Ulster semi-final and their qualifier defeat by Tyrone on Saturday have cast a pall of gloom over the orchard county.

O'Rourke has indicated his willingness to continue, albeit that he will require a vote of confidence from the clubs.

"If the county board feels that maybe a change is best for the team that will be fine by me. If they feel I am the right person to carry on I'd imagine that when the dust settles I will be willing to do that," O'Rourke said.

The 1991 Down All-Ireland winning captain has come under fire from Armagh fans for a perceived reluctance to make substitutions and positional switches but has helped to breed some new talent.

It remains to be seen, though, if seasoned players such as Steven McDonnell, Brian Mallon, Andy Mallon and Paul Hearty will commit themselves to the orchard county cause for a further year.

Belfast Telegraph


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