Saturday 18 August 2018

Fellow Errigal men Harte and O'Rourke are cut from same competitive cloth

Two managers from the same club have some different traits but share a huge appetite for success

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile

Declan Bogue

Tomorrow, two men from the same club will be contesting an All-Ireland semi-final with competing counties when Errigal Ciaran's Malachy O'Rourke and Mickey Harte lead out Monaghan and Tyrone respectively. It will be the first time in living memory for this to happen.

The main street of Ballygawley is pretty typical of mid-Ulster. A builder's merchants hums away at the top of the town with the increase in construction work around the hinterlands.

A restaurant, a chapel, a shop, a few homes, pubs, pizzeria, chip shop, cafés and various businesses. Unremarkable except for the storied football history that occupies a small part of everyone for the most part but consumes them on weeks such as this.

For publican Christopher 'Tiffy' Quinn, the football chat has seldom been as intense.

"A few boys from Scotstown would be up around here. Niall McKenna and them and they reckon this Monaghan team have given it some crack over the last few years. And they would fancy themselves," he laughs down the phone behind the bar of 'Tiffy's'.

"But then, there are people too who would be mad keen to see club football start up too when it comes. They can get a bit greedy for it all too."

Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile

Quinn has held a number of management positions throughout Ulster and is back now in the Errigal backroom team, under Pascal Canavan.

He made fleeting appearances under Mickey Harte (right, above) during his one year in charge of the seniors which yielded Tyrone and Ulster club championships in 2002. The two had been part of the same panel that won Errigal's first county championship in 1993.

"I know what he is all about," says Quinn. "It is about winning. If it was a game of tiddlywinks, Mickey Harte would want to win it, he is just driven that way."

Nobody could say O'Rourke and Harte are similar personalities.

O'Rourke is gregarious and moves among people with a booming laugh, keeping his own powder dry while letting others air their theories on football.

Harte is much more private. A life-long pioneer, while O'Rourke will enjoy the occasional night out in the pubs of Ballygawley.

Where they are virtually inseparable however, is their will to win. Both are pragmatists and innovators. But there's an edge with both, for sure.

"I would have refereed schools matches for both of them," recalls Tiffy.

"Even at U-14, years and years ago I was doing it as a favour. Malachy would be very driven though, even at U-14 level he would have been going all out to win it. A serious competitor underneath that cool image."

O'Rourke wasn't always Errigal. His wife Judith taught in Eglish; he is still a teacher in St Joseph's, Enniskillen and the two picked Ballygawley as a half-way point.

After he wound down his county career with Fermanagh, O'Rourke switched clubs from Derrylin to Errigal. Although they were only a fledging club at the time, you had to win respect. O'Rourke achieved that through his humility.

"To be fair, even if the reserves were stuck, and he had played county football for Fermanagh, there would have been no bother, he would have taken his place on the reserve team. A great man to have around the place," adds Quinn.

Paul Quinn is another man intimately familiar with both. A clever ball-playing half-back, he was on Mickey Harte's All-Ireland winning panels of the noughties.

For Errigal, he won a Tyrone Championship under Harte in 2002 and O'Rourke in 2006.

In terms of how they approached the job, there wasn't anything to separate them, Quinn reveals.

"When it comes to football they are very, very similar," says Quinn.

"Mickey would have trained us in school (St Ciaran's, Ballygawley) and then I went to the U-21s, he was taking the training himself. And the training was very innovative, it was short, sharp sessions and high intensity.

"With Malachy it was the same. Looking for small tweaks within games. A lot of tactical plays within a game, looking at the next play after a kick-out and so on. In that regard, they are so similar."

The big days come thick and fast for Tyrone. This is the fourth All-Ireland semi-final they have appeared in (2009, 2013, 2015 and 2017) since they last won the All-Ireland in 2008.

Over the last decade, they have held off on getting the Tyrone colours up too early.

"If they win on Sunday, there will be a panic to make the most of it.

But O'Rourke is one of their own too. There is a strange atmosphere around the place. It's left to Paul Quinn to best sum up the odd dichotomy.

"It's funny because Mickey and Malachy are two good clubmen.

"We obviously want Tyrone to win, we are Tyrone people, but you are really happy for Malachy and Leo (McBride, selector) to be doing well."

Irish Independent

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