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O'Rourke, McBride dream ticket for Monaghan

By John Campbell

A Fermanagh native who is rapidly establishing himself as one of the top managers in the country and a Tyrone man with an inherent ability to pinpoint and nurture emerging talent will oversee Monaghan football for the next three years.

Enniskillen schoolteacher Malachy O'Rourke, who brought the Farney county to a first Ulster title in 25 years last year when they beat Donegal in the decider and steered the side into the last eight of the All Ireland series in each of the past two seasons, has been given a solid vote of confidence by the county board to continue the excellent work he has been undertaking.

And Ciaran McBride, who had an outstanding career in the Tyrone senior jersey, will help run what is expected to be a much more buoyant Monaghan Under 21 team.

O'Rourke, of course, already enjoys huge respect in football-mad Monaghan where he is very much deemed as a messiah while McBride's accomplishments in the under-age and schools' sector render him the ideal mentor to ensure that the county's conveyor belt of talent is maintained at full throttle.

The dual appointment has already been warmly welcomed in Monaghan where optimism in relation to next year's Ulster championship is already rife given that the team is on the perceived easier side of the draw.

"Malachy O'Rourke has made a tremendous impact since taking over. We accept that both Seamus McEnaney and Eamon McEnaney, the previous two managers, also did their bit in bringing Monaghan on but obviously Malachy has taken the team to a new level," points out Monaghan's Central Council delegate and former secretary Sean McKenna.

It was Dublin who ended Monaghan's All-Ireland title dream this year but O'Rourke believes that his team have already absorbed valuable lessons from that defeat which could stand them in good stead next year when they will be playing in Division One of the Allianz League prior to the start of the championship season.

"After a tough defeat like that it's often easy to forget everything that went before. That's what I have been reminding the players of ­- the progress that we have made this year, the work that we have put in to get to Division One, to get to an Ulster final, to win a game down in Croke Park and so on," states O'Rourke.

Strabane man Ryan Porter will continue in his role as Monaghan team trainer and O'Rourke has credited him with having the players in superb shape over the course of this year.

Monaghan currently have four players - Drew Wylie, Dessie Mone, Conor McManus and Rory Beggan in the frame for coveted GAA-GPA Opel Allstar awards following their consistency in the county colours and this in itself is testament to the team's overall progress.

And Monaghan officials are optimistic that Ciaran McBride can play a part in helping to thrust the county's Under 21 team onto a new pedestal.

"There are a lot of good young players in Monaghan and we have had a decent minor side of late. Finbarr Fitzpatrick and Ciaran McBride are the kind of people who can bring the county on at the very important Under 21 level," says Sean McKenna.

Like seven other counties in Ulster, Monaghan could only look on in envy as neighbours Cavan garnered the last three provincial titles at Under 21 level.

McBride, who won All Ireland Under 21 medals in 1991 and 1992 and is also the holder of three Ulster championship medals with the Red Hands, was a member of the high-powered Football Review Committee which, under the chairmanship of Eugene McGee, prepared the groundwork for significant recent rule-changes in gaelic football.

A schoolteacher, McBride brought Omagh CBS to Hogan Cup glory in 2007 and has helped to unearth many promising players who have gone on to represent Tyrone at minor and senior level.

He is regarded as a top-class coach and will certainly bring vitality, optimism and a forceful personality to the Monaghan set-up.

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