Sunday 19 August 2018

Fermanagh players' approach convinced me to take role - Gallagher

New Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher. Photo: Sportsfile
New Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher. Photo: Sportsfile

Declan Bogue

New Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher has described how an approach from the players was enough to convince him to succeed Pete McGrath.

Fermanagh ended the season on a low note, being beaten by Monaghan and Armagh in the championship by double figures.

Worse was to come when, in a show of player power, McGrath learned his position was untenable as a significant number of players would not turn out for him in 2018, having already been re-appointed.

While this was going down, Gallagher had brought to an end his seven-year involvement with Donegal county teams, the highlight of which was the All-Ireland title of 2012 as he assisted then-manager Jim McGuinness.

"I made my decision on Donegal and I was looking forward to a bit of downtime and I had no real plan," Gallagher says now.

"A couple of things came in and I was going on holiday. Fermanagh had touched base and I had a think about it while I was away on holidays. Then I just met up with the committee and that was it really."

The move seemed unlikely as he ended his attachment to Donegal but as he explains: "I decided, being from Fermanagh it would be something I would do once in my life so maybe now is the time to do it."

Having suffered relegation to Division Three of the league and two heavy championship defeats in 2017, the job may seem less than tempting, but Gallagher, who played seven seasons for the Erne County, having made his debut as a 16-year-old in the National League in 1996, believes the talent is there, even allowing for a freakish rate of player turnover in such a small county.

The Belleek native observes: "I would have to say, having studied Fermanagh prior to 2016 with Donegal it was likely we would meet them and we did beat them. But I thought Fermanagh were operating at a high enough level and then watching their game against Mayo.

"Things didn't go as they would have liked in 2017 but either way, they feel there is more in them and when players are saying that, I see that as a challenge now for myself and the management team.

"People say, 'do you set targets?' And no, you set targets to improve. You obviously want to improve each player and want to improve the group collectively and see where that will take you."

Already, Gallagher has made an impression, naming an eye-catching back-room team including former Tyrone All-Ireland winner Ryan McMenamin along with his brother Ronan and former team-mate Shane McCabe.

The quartet is probably the freshest inter-county management team in Ireland with none of them in their forties yet.

For now, Gallagher is not indulging talk of targets and what would represent progress, but points out, "in the last seven years, Fermanagh have only won Ulster championship matches against Antrim and that's something we need to achieve - to become more competitive.

"From now to the start of the National League, I want to make sure we prepare better than anybody else in the country."

He continues: "We as a group need to knuckle down, work very hard, train smart and arrive at the start of the league. Then we will push on to arrive at the start of the championship.

"For any player in the panel, commit to it, improve, and after that I will have a better idea of where we are at."

Irish Independent

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