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O'Rourke's up there with the best, says Coyle


Malachy O'Rourke

Malachy O'Rourke

©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Malachy O'Rourke

When Malachy O'Rourke got the job of managing Fermanagh in the winter of 2007, he went looking for one of his trusted footballing collaborators.

O'Rourke and Paul Coyle of Devenish had shared a student house for three years in Belfast after meeting in St Michael's College and the two spent almost a decade playing together for Fermanagh when that commitment brought neither kudos nor respect.

When the time came for O'Rourke to manage his county, he called on Coyle, who immediately signed up for year one and stayed for years two and three.

At the start of it, Coyle had six children under the age of eight at home.

Home was Swatragh, Derry; a three-hour round trip from Fermanagh's training base at Lissan.

O'Rourke inspires that kind of devotion from people, so Coyle is unsurprised at the belated acknowledgement of his managerial talents since he took on the Monaghan job.

As a player during a time before any meaningful footage, O'Rourke was, "Very skilful, a very astute player," according to Coyle.

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"You can see some of the traits he had as a player coming through as a manager. He was full of talent, very analytical. A great free-taker. A shrewd sort of a player."

Tomorrow O'Rourke finds himself in an awkward position, bidding to get Monaghan to their third consecutive Ulster final, coming up against his native county.

Coyle believes he will easily take emotion out of the equation.

"He is very, very professional. He knows that when managing Monaghan he has a job to do. One thing Malachy will always do is respect the opponent, no matter where he is or what team he is involved in."

During his time as Fermanagh manager, his work ethic and willingness to do serious research on the opposition was a great strength, something that will be heightened by the fact he has managed so many of this current group as county players and even for and against in secondary schools football as a coach with St Joseph's Enniskillen, where he is a PE teacher.

"He will be able and preparing for Fermanagh no different than anybody else," Coyle said.

"His attention to detail, his analysis of the opponent will be very, very good. It will be excellent.

"In terms of the opponent, irrespective of who it was or what county, he would have had some detail on each player.

"Didn't matter if they were just first 15, if they were a member of the panel and there was a chance they were going to come on as a sub, he would have had some information on it."

It sounds eerily familiar to the famous anecdote of when Rory Gallagher landed to his first Donegal training session, having known or memorised the names and faces of everyone in the panel.

"People now talk about Rory Gallagher bringing this, Malachy has it too, to be fair to him," adds Coyle.

"I wouldn't be qualified enough to make any comment on Rory, or Eamonn Fitzmaurice, but certainly of my experience of being involved with a number of managers in Fermanagh at both club and county level, and playing a year or so in Tyrone, and having been up in Derry this last sixteen years, Malachy is as good as I have seen."

Ulster SFC SF: Breffni Park, Tomorrow, 4pm



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