DERRY GAA: Claudy rubbish O’Kane ‘quit’ rumours as 2016 management confirmed

Claudy's players race to celebrate their recent victory over Glenullin in Celtic Park which secured a return to senior football. DER4715MC097
Claudy's players race to celebrate their recent victory over Glenullin in Celtic Park which secured a return to senior football. DER4715MC097
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John Mitchel’s GAC, Claudy have dismissed speculation over a change of management by confirming Michael O’Kane will remain in charge of the Mens’ senior team for their return to top flight football in 2016.

The rumour mill had gone into overdrive after O’Kane took the difficult decision to step aside for Claudy’s dramatic recent play-off victory over his native Glenullin. That one point win was secured by Aaron Kerrigan’s sensational late goal in the dying seconds of injury time and meant Claudy bridged a 21-year gap to their last appearance in senior football back in 1994.

We should be proud to hold Michael’s values, and those of his club, as examples of all that is good about the GAA.

Claudy Secretary Eugene O’Neill

“We are absolutely delighted that we go into 2016 with the same management team that brought us through this year achieving as we did,” explained Club secretary, Eugene O’Neill.

“Last year when we first approached Michael he had one question of us, ‘What were our own expectations of ourselves?’ He himself had clear, ambitious goals and made it very clear that unless we too were ambitious, he was not going to waste anybody’s time.

“Make no mistake, that is precisely what made up our minds last year. Since his questions and challenges still apply, as do our answers and ambitions, we see perfect sense in continuing to place our faith in this management team and our bunch of young exceptional footballers.”

Commenting on the rumours of O’Kane’s departure, O’Neill said he understood his manager’s decision regarding what was as emotional play-off.

“Look, let’s put this in context,” he said, “We are a club that has grown from 300 to 700 members over recent years. We have reintroduced ladies football and now have 17 teams competing at all age levels. We have worked tirelessly in recent years to get members to buy into what it really means to be part of the Club, to be part of the fundamentals on which the GAA is built and to buy into those ideals. We want to instil in all of our younger members a strong sense of belonging, pride, participation, and genuine care for each other that a real club is built on.

“How then could we deny those same ideals to our manager who has lived and breathed the Glenullin way all of his life? In fact, we should be proud to hold his values, and those of his club, as examples of all that is good about the GAA. Michael’s decision to temporarily step aside was not easy. We know that he laboured long and hard over his decision and we know too that he made it for all the right reasons.”

The news means O’Kane will once again have Claudy clubman, Peter McDermot, as assistant manager with the only change seeing Freddie McElhinney return to football training in earnest, having recovered from surgery on a crucial ligament injury he received playing in the Under 21 competition in November 2014. His replacement on the management team will be announced in due course.

And for O’Kane, there was never any doubt that he still had work to do with the Claudy Mitchel’s.

“Over the past year I have seen a bunch of lads give their all to a plan,” explained the Claudy manager, “I have seen them grow together with confidence and a belief in themselves. They have worked hard to get to this point but the job is only half done and I know they have so much more to give.

“I am excited to be involved with this bunch of exceptional young players and with an exceptional club support. I really want to see where we can all go from here. I want to be part of the journey that this bunch of lads is about to embark on.”