By Ronan Scott
LAST week, the Derry County Board announced that they are going to run the club competitions throughout the entire 11-week window set aside by the GAA for grassroots games.
A move which will be admired by clubs in the county, as it illustrates their desire to put club before county.
However, last year, when the county board appointed Rory Gallagher as manager of the Derry county team, they turned down the application of one manager who wanted to implement a system that would have sent a stronger message that clubs are the priority in the Oak lef county.
That man is Peter Doherty, who played for Derry at every level, and was part of Paddy Crozier’s management team in the 2007 and 2008. Doherty has trained Tyrone u-21s and managed a string of club teams in Ulster. He’s also repeatedly applied for the Derry job, and been knocked back at every occasion.
Doherty has revealed that his plan was for limited collective county training, with players spending most of their time with their clubs, and he would track their training using GPS. He said his plan would be cheaper for the county board, and it would also make the players happier.
It’s a left-field proposal, but it is one that Doherty has settled upon after working out why Derry have not been as successful as the likes of Tyrone.
“I am an engineer, and one of the things you have to be as an engineer is a problem-solver. And the problem in Derry is one of resources.
“If you were a club player in Derry getting invited on to a county senior panel at 18, the chances of you winning an Ulster title are 10/1. You will be playing in Division Two or Division Three of the league. You will have to train four nights of the week and to do stuff on your own.
“Compare that to someone on the Tyrone senior panel. The chances of you winning an Ulster Championship are 50/50, you will be playing first division of the National League potentially. You will win the McKenna Cup nearly every year. You have a really good chance of getting a high profile position.
“You think of those two sales pitches. Think of what we are selling the Derry players.
“We have to change the sales pitch.”
Changing the sales pitch involves offering a situation that will make players happy. To do so, Doherty said that the county manager must prioritise club training because players value it more. He also thinks that the current set-up of county training is too much of a grind.
“Rather than go down the route of volume-based training which is if Dublin trains four or five nights a week, Tyrone have to train four or five nights a week, then everyone trains four or five nights a week.
“I don’t agree with that principle. It should be quality-based training, rather than volume-based.
“County players are very fit, you shouldn’t have to train players. It should all be about tactics and team bonding. But you look at the way that some teams play and you wonder what sort of tactics they are going over.”
Doherty said that when he went to interview with Derry, he put forward the argument that county teams should not demand too much of their players.
“I said the big problem with any player who is working is time management.
“They have to go to work then go to training, and it is very onerous. For Dublin, it is not a problem. They can go to the gym in the morning, and then go to work. Or they can go to work in the evening and still be eating their dinner at eight o clock. That is because they are situated in the capital and it is easier.
“Whereas in Derry and Tyrone it is more difficult (time management). Though it is easier in Tyrone because there is a guarantee of success.
“But club training, you can be there in 10 minutes. And you will enjoy it.”
So how did Peter Doherty suggest that they get round this problem in Derry? He put forward, during his interview, that there should be less collective training in Derry, and more benchmarking.
“Players are wearing GPS. Why couldn’t they wear those GPS trackers to their club training? Then you would know how much they were doing. Why do you have to get them into a room all the time? I don’t agree with that.”
Benchmarking is a scientific practice of working out what key performance indicators players should attain during training. Doherty said that he doesn’t see why a player couldn’t look after those themselves, and if they are not meeting their targets they have to work harder at club training.
In actual fact, Doherty was going to save the county board money, as buying GPS trackers would cost less than running regular county training.
Doherty thinks that Covid-19 outbreak, and the every player training in isolation, makes benchmark training much more feasible.
“If you look at the current situation, people are working from home. They are happier if they are working from home. If you take the stress out of their lives then they are happier then they are better workers.
“If you have a player who has a life outside of football then it is easier for him to commit.
“You might say to me that that will never work. What I would say to you is, no one has tried it.”
Yet this pitch didn’t work when Doherty made the presentation for the Derry job.
In particular, it was allowing the players to train with their club that was the sticking point.
“They said you couldn’t do that because the club trainers would hammer them, and the hamstrings would be pulled out of them. I said: ‘these are semi-professional players, they will not be pulling hamstrings. They will know when they are reaching their maximum. They are not stupid.’
“If they were training with their clubs one or two nights a week would they not be happier?”
Yet this proposal – less collective county training, more time with clubs, more responsibility given to players to take care of their own fitness – wasn’t taken on.
“They rejected it. Well I didn’t get the job. It was never something that they wanted to explore. They didn’t want to tease it out.
“The problem is that people don’t like change. In work and as a coach you have to manage change. The problem in Derry is that if they have trained six nights a week and it hasn’t worked then they train seven.
√“I would also say to you is this, ‘when are Derry going to win the Ulster Championship?’
“Will they win it next year from the third division? Not a chance. The year after? Unlikely.”
“You can have all the workshops that you want, but you have to accept what is happening now is not working.”
But if the county board hear this plan and hope to get Doherty on board to implement the programme they have missed the boat.
“I’m history. That boat has sailed. I’ve been nominated quite a few times. I have burned too many times.”