From the Irish News
O’Rourke is arguably a better manager
than he was in 2003 and yet it was in his first year
he came closest to winning some silverware.
The following three seasons, the Mournemen didn’t
get a sniff of success at senior level. As manager,
O’Rourke shoulders the bulk of the blame.
His error margin was simply too great during his
reign, while good fortune rarely shone on him.
On June 4 in Ballybofey, O’Rourke was crucified when
he substituted free-taker Liam Doyle in the dying
minutes, leaving Daniel Hughes the task of trying to
draw Down level from a placed ball.
Had Hughes found the narrow space between the posts
with his right boot, O’Rourke and Down’s fate in
2006 might have been different.
The point is that every manager needs luck to
succeed. He also needs enough good players.
You can talk about tactics until you’re blue in the
face, but players win and sometimes lose you games.
Clearly, O’Rourke had his tactical shortcomings, but
the manager-bashers around the Mournes also have to
remember that the current county team does not
possess the defensive talent to compete with the
Armaghs, Kerrys and Tyrones of this world. Put
simply, too much blame was laid at O’Rourke’s door.
Take Benny Coulter out of the Down equation and Down
are below average. With Coulter, they are just about
average. Average teams rarely win anything.
Dan Gordon is merely an emerging talent who goes
missing too often in games and is not the finished
article. Ambrose Rodgers is still learning his
trade; John Clarke has not yet grown into the centre
There are many less flattering critiques of many of
this Down panel. And never before has an All-Ireland
minor winning team been built up so much than the
class of ’99.
A lot of Down fans thought senior success was just
around the corner.
A lot of Down fans need to get real. What the county
really needs is someone who can turn water into
O’Rourke was by no means a miracle-worker – but
still he was given four years to deliver something
tangible and he couldn’t.
The Burren man undoubtedly made a positive
impression on many of his young players, but he
needed to be more than just a trusted mentor.
O’Rourke needed results.
His perceived tactical weaknesses were merely
accentuated by the lack of real talent within his
In a better team, those deficiencies would have been
In fact, some of the media have fallen into the trap
of over-playing a manager’s role when a team is
successful and apply the same logic when a team
Lesser managers with better players have been
carried shoulder-high in recent history.
Still in all, O’Rourke should have read the
consensus for change in the county and stepped down
after his side lost to Sligo in the
His results as manager simply weren’t good enough to
merit another year in charge.
That said, O’Rourke is probably a better manager for
the experience as he makes his way off the
But that’s the way of the world as Eoin Hand and
Brian Kerr found to their cost. You only get one
crack at it.
The Down clubs were simply not prepared to take
another leap of faith in the 1994 All-Ireland
winning captain. And it is difficult to argue with
Wednesday night’s decision.
But O’Rourke bleeds Down. That’s precisely the
reason why it will take a very long time before the
amiable Burren man sees that the Sligo defeat was
the right time to step aside. Right now, though, the
wound is much too raw...