Conor Glass and Derry eager to clinch a place in league final

Towering midfielder believes a national final date would be another step in the emerging team’s development

During Glen’s All-Ireland celebrations last January, photos appeared of Conor Glass kitted out in cycling garb, wearing a bright yellow jersey as if he had just conquered the Tour de France.

Joe Brolly spotted one such image of Glass in the Maillot Jaune, took to social media and instantly added further clout to the midfielder’s burgeoning reputation in the game.

“The boys on the beer and Conor Glass going cycling through the Sperrins,” posted Brolly, alongside the pic.

But, as laudable as that sounded, it wasn’t quite the case. Glen had completed their Tour de France at Croke Park the previous weekend. They were in party mode.


“People think that I don’t drink and that I was off cycling the morning after,” smiles Glass.

“That was not the case, it was just a running joke within the group. We had a theme of the Tour de France throughout last year. So, it was a running joke and the people from Maghera were the ones who got the joke, everyone else was like, ‘Is this man out cycling the morning after?’ But it definitely wasn’t the case.”

Malachy O’Rourke had set the Tour de France as the theme for their entire campaign – each part of the season targeted as a stage on the journey towards the finish line, from the Derry championship to the Ulster championship and all the way to the All-Ireland final.

“We just kind of took it stage by stage and that was the idea of having a theme for it, splitting it up into those stages, using past experiences of cyclists,” continued Glass.

“Like, Stephen Roche was an Irish cyclist who won the Tour de France, so using his experience of just wee ways of getting yourself focused and having it relevant, making it relevant as such.”

Glass is one of the most relevant footballers in the country right now – he was named Club Footballer of the Year only last week while the powerful midfielder is seen as key to Derry’s All-Ireland ambitions.

The Oak Leaf side won their opening four league games this season before selecting a much-changed side to face Dublin at Celtic Park last time out, a game the Dubs won comfortably.

Derry travel to Castlebar on Sunday to face Mayo – the 2023 Division One league champions – knowing a victory sets them on their way to the final.

And while indications from Mayo suggest Kevin McStay’s side are not exactly hell-bent on contesting the league decider this season, Glass insists Derry want to advance to what would be a first Division One league showpiece appearance since 2014.

“Absolutely we do. Connacht is obviously a bit different in so far as they’re out the week after the league final, whereas we have a couple of weeks’ leeway afterwards,” says Glass.

“A league final would be a fantastic place to be, especially for boys who haven’t played in one. I think Chrissy McKaigue might be the only person to play in a league final and that was 30 years ago for Chrissy!

“It would be a good experience for us if we do get there.”

Glass was one of the players rested by Mickey Harte for that recent clash against Dublin – a defeat which ended Derry’s 100 per cent winning start under their new manager.

It is impossible to determine the exact motives behind Derry’s decision to hold back on fielding their strongest team, but Glass says it was simply the right time for certain players to be given a break.

“As a competitor I would have absolutely loved it, down in your home patch against the Dubs, a packed house, it would have been some craic. But we’re able to pick our fights to a certain degree after having eight points on the board after four games.

“I wouldn’t say boys were rested to look forward, it was more just we had eight points and were four points clear from everyone else so we were in a position to be able to rest boys. It wasn’t necessarily ‘we’re not putting out a team because we want to play them in a league final’.

“I think the last month or two has been very positive for us. We were four from four, the defeat against Dublin probably overshadowed the good work that we’ve done. We needed depth in our team and I think we’ve found that over the last month or so.”

Glass could also have added a Sigerson Cup medal to his growing collection but decided against parachuting in with Ulster University for the final of the competition last month.

“I got a break to Tenerife with my fiancee so that was the reason for missing the final,” he said. “I just needed to get a bit of a holiday in and the Sigerson final was the sacrifice.

“My dad has two Sigerson medals and it would have been purely to get one over on him as well because he quickly lets me know he has a Sigerson medal over me.”

When Glass returned from Australia in late 2020, Derry were competing in Division Three of the National League. The rate of their ascent in recent years has been something not even he imagined in such a short time frame.

“No, not this quickly. I always knew that we’d be dining at the top table, as people say, in Division One, but to be able to go this quickly to it, probably not. But we have the players, and it was always in my mind that we’d be able to get there at some stage.”

– Glass was speaking at the announcement of John West’s ninth year sponsoring Féile. In 2023, some 402 teams, comprising 9,000 players, competed in the tournament, which has been in existence since 1971.

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

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