Corey's late vocation to inter-county game takes him on rocky road to Ruislip
Much-travelled Tyrone man wary of unknown factor in London in first role at the highest level
Cathal Corey was 51 on Monday last. He's been involved in the management of a stellar list of Ulster club teams for the last 25 years, positions that had him mixing up with some of the province's coaching elite.
But tomorrow the Tyrone man will take a step into the unknown with his first ever inter-county championship match when the Sligo team he has managed since the start of the season gets the 2018 Championship under way in Ruislip against London.
It's a game that fills him with fear on a few fronts. For him, personally, it's a late vocation to inter-county management. But the sense of unknown about a trip to west London naturally prompts unease.
Sligo, after all, were the last victims of a Ruislip ambush when they lost there on their previous visit five years ago.
"Going to London, playing London in London will be a bit of pressure for the whole team," he accepted. "We'd have players that would have been there the last time, Ross (Donovan) and Charlie (Harrison), Neil Ewing, Niall Murphy, Pat Hughes, they lost the game so they know how much that hurts too. So you'd be hoping their experience would help us get over the line this time. You don't really know exactly what London have."
Corey, Glenties manager when they won Donegal titles in 2010 and again in 2015, originally applied for the Donegal job which Declan Bonner got but within 24 hours of that appointment Sligo were in touch.
"I just probably wanted to see how it all works, wanted to see what could I do in myself. I just wanted even one go at it. A lot of my friends had done it, a lot of people I'd hung around with had done it, like Jim McGuinness, Gavin Devlin, Tony Scullion,men I had always managed teams with that had all got that. You're always looking to see what the difference was."
A nephew of Brian McIver, the former Donegal and Derry manager, Corey played football with Kildress in Tyrone where Eamonn Coleman was manager and he teamed up with McGuinness in Glenties in 2009.
He's also had spells with Castledawson, Slaughtneil and Banagher in Derry and Truagh in Monaghan while also reaching into third-level management with his UUJ freshers involvement.
McGuinness was a man he knew would succeed, having spent that year coaching Glenties together in 2009. Interestingly, he doesn't see him returning to the GAA management.
"I think the next time he'll manage will be a soccer side, maybe around Scotland or somewhere. I've no doubt that it would work out for him with his skills, his communication, getting players to buy into what he believes in. He's smart. He's intelligent. He knows how to get players going. If it was a snooker player he would still get him right! He's that kind of man."
Nor does he see the style that McGuinness deployed as a coach with Glenties in the mid 2000s or Donegal in 2011 as relevant in today's game as it was.
"Football changes itself. Players have worked out (to have) patience around blanket defences, and players will be more patient and not give it away. They're starting to shoot, and better shooting from distance now, not play a ball through the blanket. Now players will kick it over from 45 yards. Even if Jim (McGuinness) was back now, he'd have to come with a different plan. You can't stand off them any more, they'll punish you.
"Like Tyrone went down last year with what they felt was a real sound game-plan, it took them through Ulster handy. But Dublin worked it out and Tyrone had no Plan B."
Sligo's last-round league win against Derry buoyed him and he feels an element of revenge for 2013 can work in Sligo's favour now. "Fellas will want to try to put that right, more so than be worried about losing again. They're going over trying to set the record right. They'll not want to go twice and lose."