Monday 24 July 2017

Golden oldie Gourley is the Rock that keeps rolling

St Patrick's Academy manager Ciaran Gourley issues instructons from the sideline. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
St Patrick's Academy manager Ciaran Gourley issues instructons from the sideline. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Declan Bogue

Fourteen years after winning an All-Ireland medal with Tyrone, Ciaran Gourley returns to Croke Park hoping to lead his Rock St Patrick's club to an elusive All-Ireland Junior Football title against Glenbeigh-Glencar of Kerry. After that 2003 breakthrough, he got well acquainted with the elusive.

In 2005, he was injured for the All-Ireland final. In 2008, he didn't make the match-day panel. He was always struggling to nail his place after helping Rock to the junior club final which they lost to Canovee of Cork.

Nine years later, he takes his place in a Croke Park dressing-room, ready to put that wrong right. Two years ago, the age of 35, he found himself looking up at a Derrytresk sky, being carried off the pitch with a Patellar tendon - the one that holds your kneecap in place - ruptured in a nothing game.

"I suppose the old stubbornness helped. I didn't want to finish up, having been stretchered off the pitch that day," he laughs now.

"I was told at that stage that it would do me, that I had had enough. I spent 2015, the whole summer housebound. I wasn't fit to drive or do anything much.

"But once I started to see the shoots of a wee bit of rehab, a wee bit of recovery, the fact that I have been down that road a few times with injuries. . .

"And a few players in my club had been saying to me, 'ah, you'll get back, you'll get back.'"

And back he came.

Though, it might have been easier to just say goodbye, and slip on a manager's bib. A teacher by profession, Gourley has led St Patrick's Dungannon to MacRory and Hogan Cup success as a highly-rated coach and there were no end of suitors.

"There have been a few phonecalls," he reveals. "But I am okay in it, because my heart has still been in playing football. I know that someday, that will be it and I will be involved in taking a club. And it comes with a word of caution. The level of effort that is required for it is something that you have to take on board and you have to make sure that every job you could give it 110pc."

And so, back to Croke Park for Gourley. All 37 years of him.

Irish Independent

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