Malachy O’Rourke and Glen savour historic Ulster success

After claiming provincial crown, Derry club eyes All-Ireland glory

Malachy O’Rourke’s commitment to Glen was rewarded with the club’s first Ulster SFC success.

O’Rourke was linked with numerous intercounty jobs over the last year but the former Monaghan manager rejected a move back to that level in order to stay at the helm with Glen.

In 2021 O’Rourke managed the club to a first Derry title. They will now spend this Christmas as two-in-a-row Derry champions and also as kings of Ulster.

“I was up maybe at their gala banquet around 2018 and I was chatting to them,” recalled O’Rourke, “And I asked someone a question, ‘When is the last time you won a senior championship?’ And they told me, ‘we have never won one in our history.’


“I was actually shocked by it. I knew there had been a lot of underage success and everything else and when they came and asked me would I be interested in it, I was. I’ve really enjoyed every minute of it.

“They are a great club, a great group of players and really hungry to improve. They are a really hard-working group and you can’t ask for any more than that.”

Glen came out on the wrong side of an epic Ulster semi-final to Kilcoo last year, so there was a sense of settling an old score at the Athletic Grounds here – though that is not how O’Rourke viewed the encounter.

“I’m not sure I’d see it as revenge. Kilcoo proved themselves to be the best team in Ireland, we knew we weren’t far away but we knew we had to be better this year,” he said.

“That was our focus, to try to get a really solid team performance and learn things from last year and put them into practice and lucky enough we were able to do that.

“We wanted to ask more questions of the Kilcoo defence this year so the movement of our forward line was good, we worked really hard for each other and we got gaps early on so we gave ourselves a great push.”

Kilcoo were going for a third successive Ulster senior football club title but their slow start to this match – they conceded the first five points – left them chasing the game throughout. If Kilcoo had managed to restore parity at any stage, it would have changed the dynamic.

“If we had got level we probably would have rattled them,” said Kilcoo joint-manager Conleith Gilligan. “But that always gave them that cushion and they are very good at keeping the ball. If we had got level it might have been different but they are the things that on other days go for you.

“Look, today was Glen’s day, they weren’t going to be denied and I’ve no doubt they will go on and be very difficult for anybody they meet. Glen are worthy champions, we have no qualms about that today.”

Glen will play Moycullen now in an All-Ireland club semi-final in January. They are one of just four teams left and if they can bring this level of intensity to the All-Ireland series, then Glen will be difficult to shake off.

“I suppose at the start of the year that was the question for the group, and especially after winning our first Derry title last year, it was a matter of you didn’t know whether the boys would have the hunger for it,” stated O’Rourke.

“To win your first ever title is a big thing but straight away I knew the boys were hungry and they were ambitious and they wanted to drive on again.

“To lose Ciaran McFaul, who was a massive, massive part of the team last year, a linchpin of the team, to lose him it almost left a big hole, but it just shows the strength in depth that we have that we were able to fill that and still go on and win Ulster, which is a credit to the boys.”

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times