Opinion: Derry have what it takes to reach the Holy Grail in 2024
Derry can reach the Holy Grail in 2024.
The 2024 season is just around the corner and once again it will be hard for GAA fans to look past Dublin or Kerry for All-Ireland honours.
But who is next in line to challenge them?
For me, I firmly believe Derry are dark horses for Sam. Over the last two seasons we have seen the two-in-a-row Ulster champions reach back-to-back All-Ireland semi-finals.
Tomás Ó Sé give his take on Derry after they advanced to the All-Ireland semi-final
📱 Updates https://t.co/YGbA7nU6fP
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) July 2, 2023
The Oak Leaf County will look back on 2023 with some regrets, especially as they led Kerry 1-14 – 1-13 with five minutes left to play in a game the Kingdom ultimately went on to win by three points.
2023 also threw controversy at Derry which saw Rory Gallagher step down from his position before the Ulster Final. Selector Ciaran Meenagh took on the role as a manager and it looked like he would be there be 2024.
Then the news broke.
Gaelic football fans all around the country were left shocked on the 19th of September when it was announced that Tyrone legend and Louth senior football manager Micky Harte would become the new Derry boss…
This is the worst thing to happen to Derry since the plantation
— Joe Brolly (@JoeBrolly1993) September 19, 2023
But Harte is an experienced winner.
Harte, whose management team will consist of his right man Gavin Devlin, Enda Muldoon and Paul McFlynn, is a serial winner and led Tyrone to three All-Ireland’s in 2003, 2005 and 2008.
While, a lot more recently, he led Louth to a Division Three league title in 2022 and a Leinster final last year.
It was a bold call from the Derry county board to take a manager from another team – and it was no doubt a tough decision for Harte to leave Louth – but the move could well pay off.
Derry’s system has proven difficult for teams to breakdown so we will often hear about how they are overly defensive. If you ask me, that’s really a lazy analysis.
The reigning Ulster champions defend in numbers like all teams (and there’s no doubt that will continue to under Harte) but it’s their ability to hit teams on the counter that’s most admirable.
Change of Harte.
Mickey Harte leaves Louth to take over Derry senior footballers alongside Gavin Devlin. pic.twitter.com/UDu7OlsIJI
— sportsfile (@sportsfile) September 18, 2023
Talented Derry team.
There are numerous players who make this Derry team tick:
There’s fly-keeper Odhran Lynch who will often contribute to pressing the oppositions kickout
Man-markers Chrissy McKagiue, Eoin McEvoy and Conor McCluskey.
Conor Doherty and Gareth McKinless who give them huge energy going forward
And Conor Glass and Brendan Rodgers are up there with the best midfield in the country
— The GAA (@officialgaa) June 25, 2022
That’s not to mention Shane McGuigan who was recently up there with David Clifford as the top forward in the country.
There’s no doubt about it that the All-Ireland semi-finalists still have players to find and I expect Lachlann Murray and Matthew Downey to be two names that we will see a lot of in 2024.
Murray and Downey have stood out at underage level and are two players who can contribute as scoring forwards along with the ever impressive McGuigan.
While another two players who could add to the mix are Glen pair Eunan Mulholland, and Conleith McGuckian.
36’ – blistering start to the second half for Glen with Cathal Mulholland scoring the opening goal of the game.
— Derry GAA (@Doiregaa) October 29, 2023
Injection of talent.
Remember, Glen reached last year’s All-Ireland club final and are on a mission to go one step further this year. Could their success be something that helps transform Derry football?
It’s just one of a handful of things indicating that good days are ahead for Harte’s team – not least the fact Derry claimed All-Ireland minor titles in both 2020 and 2023, and also reached the Ulster U20 final this year.
There’s enough talent coming through to strengthen the Derry footballers for 2024 and there’s enough match-winning experience in their new manager’s noggin to mould them into something formidable.
So could they really go all the way?
We all know it will be difficult but I wouldn’t write them off.