It happened in a hurry. The vanquished Leinster finalists called to a hastily convened meeting, their manager already making his way to the home of the Ulster champions. Mickey Harte, incoming Derry senior football boss. The road less travelled, and all that.
When the seismic news broke on Monday night that Harte was stepping down as Louth manager to take on the role of Derry boss, it was even more shocking than the dispatch three years earlier confirming his arrival in the Wee County.
On that occasion, 10 days after finishing with Tyrone in November 2020, Harte was confirmed as the new Louth manager. This time, it was just one week after it emerged Ciarán Meenagh would not be pursuing the Derry position when it transpired another Tyrone man would be.
Dominos, all it takes is one to fall.
Dress it up whatever way you want, a bigger gig came along and Harte fancied the challenge.
“We were totally shocked when we heard,” Louth secretary Bob Doheny told The Irish Times on Monday night.
Harte called Louth chairman Peter Fitzpatrick on Monday morning and asked to meet, which was the start of a frantic day culminating in a meeting hastily assembled later that evening for both members of the management committee and the Louth senior football panel in Darver, where they were told of the developments.
“Of course there was shock in the room when Peter made the announcement,” added Doheny
Next week will mark the 20-year anniversary of Harte guiding his native Tyrone to their inaugural Sam Maguire triumph. And this decision to take on the Derry role, which was revealed by Louth GAA, puts Harte standing once again in the dressingroom of a team with genuine All-Ireland credentials.
It will also directly pit him against Tyrone for the first time. For Louth, the off season has been spent frantically gripping a greasy pole. Only a few months back they were in the mix for promotion to Division One and they contested a Leinster final.
More importantly there were big shiny plans for a new stadium and an understanding Harte would be there to manage the senior footballers until 2025. It was almost too good to be true.
They could be forgiven if they felt stranded on the side of the road now, gear-bags slung over their shoulder, not sure where to go from here. However, Louth have already put a committee in place to find a new manager and while there was no official confirmation from Derry on Monday night it has been indicated Harte has a three-year agreement with the Oak Leaf side.
“Following a meeting of the Louth GAA management committee tonight (Monday 18th September) chairperson Peter Fitzpatrick informed members of the committee that senior team manager Micky Harte informed him that he and senior team coach Gavin Devlin will be standing down from their roles with Louth GAA with immediate effect, and taking over with Derry senior footballers,” read a statement released by Louth GAA on Monday night.
“Louth GAA management committee would like to sincerely thank Mickey, Gavin and his back room team for their efforts in propelling Louth senior footballers into Division Two football from Division Four in 2020. They have shown professionalism, enthusiasm, dedication and continued courtesy over the last three years and we have enjoyed a positive working relationship with Mickey and his management team which concluded in the group stages of the All-Ireland following a first Leinster final appearance since 2010.
“Louth GAA would like to wish Mickey, Gavin and his management team all the best in their future endeavours. We will now immediately begin the process in seeking a new senior football team manager.”
Harte took charge of Louth ahead of the 2021 season and guided them from Division 4 to Division 2 in the National Football League. Louth also contested the Leinster senior football final this year and competed in the All-Ireland round robin series. They had expected him to be at the helm in 2024.
Nobody expected him to instead be planning for an Ulster SFC campaign. With Derry. The road less travelled, and all that.