O’Kane has been Head Coach and Director of Rugby at Judges Road since April 2018 during which time he helped restructure the club, saved the ‘Green and Black’ from dropping into junior rugby and stabilised a young, locally based playing squad.
McCarter has been O’Kane’s backs coach and assistant during that spell and will be following in the footsteps of his dad, Gerald, when he takes on the Head Coach role, an appointment he admits has come sooner than expected.
“I didn’t have a second thought,” revealed McCarter, “It’s something I’ve been thinking about. Maybe not for a while, but I would be lying if I said a Head Coach’s role hadn’t come into my head before. In terms of my development, I liked being an assistant and had a really good relationship with Paul but in terms of my progression and development, it was perhaps coming to a stage where I had to take a leap, be that with Derry or somewhere else. On a personal level I’m delighted to be given the opportunity and to be given the support and the backing to do it.”
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The new Derry Head coach said it had been a period of mixed emotions since O’Kane informed him of his intention to depart and McCarter had nothing but praise for the job the Limavady native had done in his three years in charge.
“It has been strange because I’m desperately sad to see Paul go,” he admitted, “We had a great relationship and probably spoke to each other more than we talked to our own wives!
“I haven’t really taken it in from my own perspective yet but I am really proud. Derry is my club. I have been about the place since I was in nappies. It is a proud moment and with my dad’s involvement here too, I have already been picking his brains about a few things. He’s always one to give me advice and I will need people like him, people I can trust; people who aren’t afraid to give honest feedback on certain things because it is still a massive learning curve for me.”
McCarter will be supported by Chris Cooper as assistant and forwards coach with Stephen Duffy remaining as Strength and Conditioning coach while there is also a place on the new management team for Simon Logue, who is currently side-lined with a long term bicep injury.
“Obviously, it has come out of the blue a bit but I’m excited. It has come quicker than I expected. I thought with Paul we had a very good thing going over these past two or three seasons. The squad is definitely going in the right direction.
“Myself and Paul also had a very good relationship with the players and that’s always important. From their point of view, Kanesy will be a big miss. Everybody thought the world of him, including myself, and it will be hard on the lads initially but once the dust settles we have to get back to rugby. We have plenty to focus on. Paul is going to do his things with Letterkenny and we wish him the very best but we have a job to do as well with City of Derry so hopefully everyone buys into it and we can be successful.”
McCarter’s remit will concentrate solely on coaching and it’s believed a difference of opinion regarding club structures may have contributed to O’Kane’s decision to accept the Letterkenny offer after turning down an approach from Sligo. Despite that, O’Kane said he bore no grudges and wished City of Derry well for the future while fully endorsing their decision to appoint McCarter.
“I don’t have any ill will towards Derry,” explained O’Kane, “I have really enjoyed being part of the club and there are some great people there. I am sad to be leaving, I genuinely am. However, for all concerned, I think it's for the best.
“The club has things it wants to get sorted behind the scenes. I don’t think the structure actually lends itself to a Director or Rugby just at the moment so this decision will suit all concerned.
“It is disappointing to be leaving but I think the club is in a much better place than it was when I arrived. Richy (McCarter) will bring a fresh outlook and is one of the best young coaches I know. I have no grudges. I love the lads to bits and I think we managed to turn the ship around to be headed in the right direction and Richy can carry that on.
“There is nobody can tell me any different, Derry should be in the top league in Ireland because I still believe the potential within the club and area is huge. That should at least be their aim and it’s similar with Letterkenny. I’m excited by Letterkenny’s ambitions. Hopefully there are good things ahead for both clubs. It’s still the north west area as well and I have a real passion for rugby up here.”