Saturday 21 October 2017

Cooke admits to following Fergie's recipe for success

Neil Ahern

MONAGHAN UNITED share the same acronym with one of the biggest clubs in the world -- and manager Mick Cooke believes there are more similarities than you would expect between his Airtricity League First Division outfit and the much more illustrious MUFC.

Going into the first final in the club's history against Sligo Rovers in the EA Sports Cup decider, and sitting at the top of a league table for the first time, the League of Ireland's longest-serving manager has broken all kinds of records at Gortakeegan this season.

It's been a long wait for the former Ireland women's boss and his Ulster club, having been appointed as Bobby Browne's successor in 2003 before making a gradual climb up the First Division from 11th to fifth between 2004 and 2009.

Such patience from a football club is as rare as hen's teeth in an era when managers are dispensed with and appointed on a whim. But there is one club Cooke feels the Mons can relate to.

"Well obviously, going back 25 years, Manchester United embarked on a plan to develop their youth system and structures with Alex Ferguson and at one point he was a game away from the sack," explained Cooke. "But I think it showed that patience and perseverance pays off.

"With the way it's gone in football now, and there's so much money involved, you don't see too much of it these days.

"When I sat down with the board at Monaghan in 2003, they said they wanted to start with the basics -- develop the facilities and a youth structure -- and we have done just that.

"We've had Mark Connolly (who last year moved from Wolves to Bolton for £1m) and a few other young players move on and a lot of our youth players have played for us this season.

"So we went down that road of slowly building and it will certainly serve us well in the long-term."

They have certainly benefited from their approach this season, after 25 years of waiting, as they sit on the brink of promotion to the Premier League as well as a first trophy.

But the Dubliner remains modest about his achievements thus far.

"There are a lot of great managers in this league with smaller teams who have never won anything but may have achieved their targets. If you think that there are only really three trophies and 22 teams, that's 19 managers who have no trophies at the end of it."

Cooke can only hope that, by 8.0 tonight, he is not still one of them.

Sligo Rovers v Monaghan United,

Live, Setanta Ireland, 5.30

Irish Independent

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