In 2002, almost a decade after he became the first man to lead Derry’s footballers to All Ireland success – and in the most unlikely of moves for the cagey Ballymaguigan bricklayer – Eamonn Coleman sat down with a journalist and told his story.
That that journalist was his niece and goddaughter gave the infamously secretive Coleman the time and space to relive the white-hot battles of Ulster football in the early 90s, from Casement to Clones with the boys of ’93, and their triumphant march to Croker to claim Sam, the ultimate prize.
Over a period of months, then years, and in that unique South Derry brogue, he recalls those guts and glory days: the professional triumphs and personal disasters, not least his sacking just a year after seeing his beloved ‘boys’ crowned All Ireland kings. That was personal.
The charismatic Coleman pays homage to the halcyon days of Ulster football and to the men who made them: McEniff and McGrath as well as Heffernan and Boylan. At the root of his story though remains his golden philosophy, “players is the men”.
About the Authors
A trailblazer throughout his GAA career, in 1993 Eamonn Coleman became the first manager to lead Derry to All Ireland success, a feat that remains his alone. Having taken over as manager in 1990, in 1992 he brought the county only its second National League title. At just 14 he became the youngest ever player to win a senior club championship medal with his home team, Ballymaguigan; he was a member of Derry’s first All Ireland winning minors in 1965 and All Ireland U21 champions of 1968. He repeated his minor success as a manager, winning the All Ireland in 1983. (He died in June 2007 from non-Hodgkins lymphoma.)
Maria McCourt is Eamonn Coleman’s niece and goddaughter, and a former journalist and editor who has worked as a news and sports reporter for publications in Ireland, Australia and the US. Having started her career as a trainee journalist with the Belfast Media Group, she went on to become editor of two of its newspapers, the North Belfast News and South Belfast News. In the mid-2000s, she led editorial teams in Cavan and Monaghan, establishing two weekly papers in the counties, and has also worked for the Irish Echo newspaper in Sydney and as a contributor for Irish Echo in New York.