Damian McErlain is refusing to allow his focus to shift from winning the All Ireland Minor Football Championship, despite his promotion to Derry senior county manager on a three year term.
The Magherafelt man was tonight formally ratified as Damian Barton’s successor at a meeting of the County Board in Owenbeg.
And despite some reservations over the timing of the appointment, given the Minor final against Kerry is on September 17th, it is believed McErlain was in favour of an early announcement to end weeks of speculation after it had became something of an open secret.
The coaching personnel on the new management team will include Killian Conlan, Gavin McGeehan and former Derry goalkeeper, Barry Gillis.
And welcoming the appointment, Derry GAA said McErlain’s credentials were impeccable and made him the ideal candidate for the role.
“Over the past decade, through their work with our Minor and other underage squads, Damian and his team have demonstrated their ability and commitment to creating an environment which helps players achieve their potential,” said a County Board spokesperson
“We look forward to working in partnership with the new senior management team as they help progress Derry inter-county football into the future.”
McErlain’s management career started in emergency fashion when he was forced to step in as his club faced relegation in 2008, but his potential was clear from the beginning after he steadied things over the final five games and helped keep Magherafelt up.
He led the club to the an Ulster Minor final but lost out to Antrim’s Lámh Dhearg before becoming involved with the county under-16 development and graduating to county Minor manager in 2015.
But despite his delight at being handed the top post in the county, McErlain said his focus will not turn to the job until after the All Ireland Minor final.
“On behalf of myself and the management team, we are delighted and honoured to be entrusted with working with our county’s senior footballers for the next three years,” he explained.
“We are massively looking forward to working with the county’s best players and the other stakeholders involved in creating the environment to fulfil the potential that’s within Derry football.
“We know the talent that exists within the county and we’ve developed three strong Minor teams to further bolster that. We now need to ensure that we have the right environment for the players to develop further.
“We’ve a big couple of weeks ahead with the All-Ireland Minor final to look forward to, and we’ll get down to work with the senior job once that occasion has passed.
“Until then it’s all about Derry Minors trying to win an All-Ireland title and nothing else.”