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08 Dec 2021

Inside Track: Could McGuinness be back in running for Oriel post?

Inside Track: Could McGuinness be back in running for Oriel post?

Jim McGuinness on the sidelines with the Derry City U19 team. (Pic: Sportsfile)

Let’s talk about managers. While Jim McGuinness hasn’t completely ruled out taking over as Down senior team manager, the chances of him filling the post vacated by Paddy Tally a number of months ago are probably closer to remote than odds-on.

The man who led Donegal to Sam Maguire glory in 2012, emulating the 1992 feat of Brian McEniff, was reported to have pieced together a backroom team which included successful Down underage manager, Colin Laverty, and former footballer, Marty Clarke.

But since the story was carried in the papers, McGuinness said he had “spoken to a number of county teams,” but that his focus was “very much on soccer at the moment”.

Since quitting as Donegal manager in 2014, McGuinness has been primarily involved in soccer, although he found time in recent weeks to lend a hand at Monasterboice as Naomh Mairtin prepared to defend their Louth senior title. His soccer travels have taken him to Glasgow, America and China, and he is presently involved with Derry City. Earlier this year he was linked with Dundalk.  

Given the uncertainty that surrounds the immediate future at Oriel Park, is it possible there could be a renewal of interest in McGuinness being enticed this way, or, indeed, the man himself opting to take the job which changed hands quite often in recent months before Vinny Perth brought some stability and, indeed, steered the team away from the Premier League danger zone?

There’s no doubt Perth has a strong case to be retained. The trapdoor was wide open for a number of weeks this season, but the Dub kept faith in his own ability and a firm belief in the players he had in his charge, and in the final furlong saw his team gallop away from the stragglers.

Perth’s one-time colleague, Stephen Kenny, is back smiling again along the line. He beamed at The Aviva on Thursday night as his Republic of Ireland team held Portugal to a draw in a game that had the stadium full to capacity for the first time in months. (What they say about a vociferous home support being a 12th man was given backing on this occasion.) For many of the games prior to that, Kenny had the pained look of someone who wasn’t enjoying life on the line.

The debate is raging – and has been for weeks – over whether or not Kenny should retain the post after his contract expires next July. Last Sunday’s away game with Luxemburg was the last in the World Cup qualifiers, and as Ireland were long out of the running for a qualifying spot, it was, like the Portugal tie, a dead rubber. However, between now and July several games are listed, some with a competitive edge to them.

Unless the FAI plan to use these matches as a judgement, they should decide now what their intentions are. If a vote were taken among supporters, you’d have the think the result would be favourable to the former Dundalk gaffer.

I often wonder about newly-appointed English League managers coming out in front of the cameras, either wearing a scarf, showing off his team’s jersey, or maybe even kissing the badge on it. I ask myself how genuine is it all.

Steven Gerrard gave it the full Monty when he took over at Ibrox three years ago; and you said to yourself, that’s it, he’s a guy who’s definitely in for the long haul. Siding with the blue side of Glasgow –  or the green side, for that matter -  is not the same as, say, taking over at Plymouth Argyle, or, Inside Track’s favourites, Accrington Stanley.

It’s an institution you’re joining more than a just a club, and it’s a kinda, when you’re in, you’re in, unless of course your team become perennial first round losers or league whippers-in.

Gerrard turned Rangers’ fortunes around, helping them escape from underneath a huge hooped canvas by winning last season’s league. He had his charges ahead of their arch rivals in this year’s renewal, holding a solid chance of retaining the trophy.

But then came news last week: the former Liverpool legend was on his way, skipping back across the border to take over from Dean Smith at Aston Villa. And, yes, he was quickly wheeled out after signing on the dotted line, with the claret-and-sky blue proudly displayed.

Maybe Steve will still be at Villa Park in five years’ time, or maybe in the meantime, he will, like others, take another spin or two on the roundabout.

What are the chances on Mickey Harte being on the move soon? Very slim, it would seem. Word is that the Tyrone man, whose managerial record across all grades stands up to the closest examination, minor, under-21 and senior All-Ireland titles sitting among his haul, has committed to a lengthy spell in his adopted county, working alongside countyman, Gavin Devlin.

And more than just take charge of county teams, he has got himself involved in the organisation of underage football in the company of the county’s Games Development Administrators. His experience in this field should prove invaluable, and his decision to expand his original role is one that should be welcomed.

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