Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA

McGleenan starts out on his long journey with early showdown against Harte

By Declan Bogue

Back on the last day of November as the teams came out of the hat for the Dr McKenna Cup, the inevitable happened.

Mattie McGleenan, the Tyrone full-forward of the '90s, famous for the sheer bravery of the decisive fisted goal in the 1995 Ulster final against Cavan, was sitting across the aisle in the Fitzwilliam Hotel from Tyrone manager, Mickey Harte.

As fate would decree, Tyrone and Cavan were drawn together in the same group. Harte's expression met somewhere between a grimace and a smile. McGleenan just kept on beaming, like he has ever since Cavan made an approach for him.

22 years on, he begins his first season in the inter-county game as manager of Cavan. Along with Harte and Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke, he represents yet another man on that circuit, McGleenan's home of the Brantry being a dozen miles or so from O'Rourke and Harte.

The two will meet on the sideline in Kingspan Breffni Park tomorrow, shake hands, and after that, the longest-serving manager in the county game - heading into his 27th consecutive season over a Tyrone team, goes to battle against the newest manager in the game.

McGleenan has arrived here via coaching successes in school's football with St Patrick's Armagh, where he coached and taught an aspiring young Sean Cavanagh, and at club level. He raised the bar at Monaghan Harps and brought them to senior prominence, before bringing Scotstown to the verge of 2015 Ulster club success only to lose in extra-time to Crossmaglen.

When it is put to him that he is in Cavan because all the Tyrone coaching posts are full up, he retorts: "Listen, this did not enter my head.

"It never did. I never saw Cavan coming at any time. I was submerged in Scotstown, there was a rumour going round that I was attached to the Cavan job but I was never officially approached."

He adds: "I just thought it was fantastic that they would even consider me good enough to work at that level. But it never entered my head until Gerry Reilly (Cavan chairman) asked me to interview for the job.

"I was flabbergasted, just thought, that is just an unbelievable privilege that they would even consider ringing me to interview for the job. But be under no illusion, I never was under any preconception that I was going to get the job. I just went down to have a chat about football, and here I am now!"

So far, McGleenan has spent his time familiarising himself with Cavan football, the training facilities at Breffni Park and bedding himself in.

"I suppose the most important thing is getting to know the personalities of the players," he says.

"I am only in the job a matter of months and I am spending the time getting to know the personalities."

As he explains: "I was in Scotstown there for four years and besides watching Tyrone, I was never looking too far around the other counties. I was at the Cavan-Tyrone games last year but I was concentrating on Tyrone, not specifically looking at Cavan.

"So, for me, it's been getting to know the lads, getting the know their personalities and them getting to know me. So far, listen, I am having a great time!

"The guys I have started training, I enjoy myself and that's how I approach coaching no matter where I have been, whether it be the school, Scotstown, I intend to enjoy myself. If I am enjoying myself, the players are going to be enjoying themselves and that's the way it is."

McGleenan has already been dealt an early blow as he looks at the National League and hosting All-Ireland champions Dublin for the first game, when it was revealed that star players Eugene Keating, David Givney and Cian Mackey will not be available, therefore robbing him of half his attack.

He kept the mood light by explaining: "I had a great chat with Terry Hyland, and Terry had a great line; 'you can only dance with the girls in the hall'.

"I have a group of men who want to play for Cavan. If those boys want to come back, they are most welcome."

TYRONE: N Morgan; A McCrory, J Munroe, R McNabb; M Cassidy, T McCann, N Sludden; D McClure, P McNulty; D McCurry, P Harte, C McCullagh; L Brennan, C McAliskey, R O'Neill

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph