Derry GAA have appointed three-time All-Ireland manager Mickey Harte as the new boss of their senior football team.
Harte has been handed a three-year contract and will be joined in Derry by long-serving assistant Gavin Devlin. Derry released a statement confirming the news earlier this week.
“Following tonight’s meeting of Coiste Chontae Dhoire, Derry GAA are pleased to announce the senior football management team for the incoming year,” the statement read.
“Multiple All-Ireland winning manager Mickey Harte has been appointed on a three-year term and will lead a management team including Gavin Devlin. Further details about the back-room team will be confirmed in due course.
“We wish both the management team and playing panel every success for the 2024 season.”
Harte’s appointment comes 30 years after Derry’s solitary All-Ireland final triumph in 1993 – a record which irks a club that has had several near misses in recent years.
They have won the Ulster title in each of the past two seasons, before falling short at the semi-final stage in the All-Ireland championship. Many respected pundits believe they are capable of ending their title drought, including former Derry player Conleith Gilligan.
He says Harte, who guided Tyrone to All-Ireland titles in 2003, 2005 and 2008, is the ideal man to deliver success to Derry after spending the past few years with Louth.
“This is a job where Derry are at the forefront of a team that could win the All-Ireland – there are very few jobs like that,” said Gilligan. “This is a Derry team absolutely full of potential and it has the ability to win the Sam Maguire. They’ve shown that over the past couple of years.
“It was an appointment that came out of the blue. Everybody was talking about Malachy O’Rourke because of his ties with Derry. He was the name on everyone’s lips and then all of a sudden Mickey Harte and Gavin Devlin are announced.”
While Gilligan believes Harte could be a difference maker for Derry in their pursuit of their second All-Ireland title, leading online bookmakers are not as convinced. The top GAA betting sites in Ireland rate them as 7/1 shots to win the championship behind Kerry, Dublin and Galway.
Derry were unfortunate to lose against Kerry in this year’s All-Ireland semi-final, and Harte’s expertise could prove invaluable next time around. His shock appointment has caused a stir in GAA circles, with RTE analyst Eammon Fitzmaurice among the experts who believe it is a risky move by the club.
Harte is famed for his pragmatic style of play – a set-up which is in stark contrast to how Derry have operated in recent years. Fitzmaurice acknowledges that his previous track record of success makes him an enticing option for Derry, but is unsure whether his counter-attacking system will work at his new club.
“The thing that is going to be interesting is how Mickey Harte and Gavin Devlin fit into the way that Derry have been playing the last couple of seasons,” Fitzmaurice said.
“I have been a big fan of how they have gone about it, in particularly their innovation with their forward play in the season gone by in how they were pushing everyone forward and playing with 14 and 15 in attack, using Odhran Lynch as an attacker. It very nearly got them to an All-Ireland final.
“I would have been looking forward to the next manager building on that. But the way that Mickey and Gavin have played in the past – that wouldn’t have been in their playbook.
“It’ll be interesting to see how they merge their approach to the game and the way this group of Derry players have been developing over the last few seasons. As I said I think the attraction is that All-Ireland winning experience in Mickey Harte’s past.”
Fitzmaurice’s comments about Harte’s chances of delivering an All-Ireland title to Derry carry additional weight given the challenges they will face in the Ulster Championship.
A mouth-watering clash with Tyrone will be on the agenda during the early part of the season, while a head-to-head with Donegal will also attract plenty of interest.
Harte will be eager to emerge victorious in those matches to demonstrate that his team have the ability to become All-Ireland championships. The meeting with his former club will be particularly fiery and could result in Tyrone’s 16/1 title odds being slashed if they turn Derry over.
“They’ll certainly come across each other, it could even be a preliminary quarter-final,” Fitzmaurice added. “When the league fixtures come out it’s going to bring massive interest.Donegal having Jim McGuiness back will mean there are going to be a lot of box office games in Ulster next summer.”