Rory Gallagher quits as Donegal manager
Fermanagh man walks away following heavy defeats to Tyrone and Galway
Rory Gallagher: has quit his post as Donegal senior football manager. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
It was always going to be a hard act to follow and Rory Gallagher has stepped down as manager of the Donegal football team, three largely disappointing years after succeeding their All-Ireland winning manager Jim McGuinness.
After Donegal’s heavy championship defeat to Galway in the round four qualifier last Saturday week, by 15 points, Gallagher admitted it was “tough day”, even if the team is undergoing a near complete overhaul from the All-Ireland -winning side of 2012.
It was however the first time Donegal had failed to reach the All-Ireland quarter-finals since 2010.
That followed the equally disappointing Ulster semi-final defeat to Tyrone, by nine points, and even against the backdrop of so many of the experienced players having moved on, Gallagher knew there was pressure coming on.
At the end of last season, Donegal announced an extension to Gallagher’s term to keep him in the job for another three years, with an option for a fourth year.
He previously served as selector and essentially number two to Jim McGuinness in that All-Ireland-winning season, but then stepped aside in 2013, McGuinness heaping on praise on him as he left.
“I think that Rory made an enormous contribution to Donegal’s success as a tactician, coach, motivator and diplomat. He did not spare himself in bringing Donegal right up to the top,” he said.
Talk will now turn to Gallagher’s successor, and among those likely to be considered is former county player Declan Bonner, who took the Donegal minors to the All-Ireland final in 2014, where they lost to Kerry.
In his first year in charge, Gallagher guided Donegal back to the Ulster final, but they lost out to underdogs Monaghan by a point. Last year they made the final again, only to lose to Tyrone by two points.
He also spoke after the defeat to Galway about state of transition the team were in: “We take Paddy McGrath and Neil McGee out of our defence and they are the only two that played in 2014. All those lads are in their first or second year of inter-county football. We know they are exceptionally inexperienced. It’s a tough day. We have good young players but it was going to be a challenge.”
The Fermanagh native was known to be considering his future in charge, and did meet briefly with Donegal chairman, Sean Dunnion, in the aftermath of the Galway defeat. It was was then confirmed ahead of last night’s monthly county committee meeting that he was stepping down.
Former Donegal team manager Brian McEniff said he was surprised at Gallagher’s departure.
“He has taken incredible abuse on social media in recent weeks and that is just not on. I thought he might have stayed on a bit longer. Rory has given seven good years to Donegal football so he does not owe the county anything,” he said.
“This is a very young team but we badly need some physicality around the middle of the field. That was clearly shown up against Tyrone and Galway.”
One club delegate last night said that Gallagher’s time was up.
“It just has not worked out and I feel we have been going backwards. I know that this is a young team but that is no excuse for the way we played against Tyrone and Galway.
“We badly need players like Leo McLoone, Declan Walsh, Anthony Thompson and Odhrán MacNiallais back in the squad. Ciaran McGinley is another player who has the physicality for us. And Rory did not have a strong enough management team behind him. It all seemed to sit on his shoulders and that is just too much for one man”.