Damian Barton hails Kevin McStay’s decision to enter managerial bear-pit

Derry manager Damian Barton has praised Kevin McStay for moving away from the pundit’s desk and entering inter-county management.

Barton, a former commentator himself, heard of how McStay avoided a monumental embarrassment as Roscommon joint-manager in New York on Sunday when the visitors won by a point.

Ahead of the championship, he has called on more pundits to put their words into action and follow his and McStay’s example.

“I tell you what — this has been some experience for me,” he said at last evening’s Ulster SFC launch in Newry. “I was saying that to (selector) Tony Scullion on Sunday because we came down here and played Down in a challenge.

“You know something — some of these guys need to get off their backsides. Fair play to (Kevin) McStay but he nearly got caught last Sunday. It’s one thing and sitting and commenting as I’ve done in the past but when you actually deal with the demands that are not maybe exposed on a Sunday... it’s what happens a month ago, a week ago, a day ago. These are the real things that are management and can have an effect on what happens on the pitch.

“I’m not on Facebook, I don’t read newspapers. I don’t go in for that because everybody has their own agenda and it’s easy to be critical. I’ve never thought it was a good idea to be critical of players because they go out to do their best and yet they’re exposed for ridicule.

“I would just love any of the pundits (to become inter-county managers) — and to be a degree they have done it at club level — but this is a different beast. I’m only a custodian. I’m doing my best. As well as looking after what happens with this year’s team, I’m trying to bring players in and develop them. And it’s easy to sit there and pontificate at times.”

Derry entertain Tyrone in a provincial quarter-final in Celtic Park on May 22 with the neighbours having already faced each other three times this year. Barton accepts there is a belief the game will have to be officiated stringently.

“I think people sometimes go in with perceptions, rightly or wrongly. I think there are teams throughout any championship that get a rub of the green rightly or wrongly. It can be perceived like that by the media and statistics sometimes back that up but I think referees are under enormous pressure so I’m not going to suggest other teams are going to get it easier than others but it sometimes pans out that way.

“With packed defences, people maybe getting off the shoulder and trying to create a scoring chance, some people go down quite easy, some people don’t. We can’t avoid the fact it’s going to have an enormous role to play and there are going to be some big calls. But that’s what makes our games; that’s only one facet of our games. A beauty of our game is contention.

“I’ve had enough run-ins with referees,” smiled Barton wryly referring to his sideline ban arising from the McKenna Cup final defeat to Tyrone.

“I think it’s a very difficult job but irrespective of what the contest is even from an outside point of view you can still see small differences that have big outcomes in terms of games and whether it was a foul, a penalty or was it not. That’s a part of it and it’s an uncontrollable and the players know it’s an uncontrollable as well.

“The players go up and shake the hand of the referee not because they want to say ‘how are you’ because he’s a nice fella but ‘remember me!’ At the end of the day, players win and lose games and we’ve got to go and win matches and not look for excuses. Officials are uncontrollables and they do their best as well.”

Barton is positive about Derry’s chance of surprising Ulster SFC favourites Tyrone.

“While we’re in a development stage at the same time, we recognise there is an age profile in the team where we need to do something now. I’m confident we can win this game. Otherwise we wouldn’t be there. I’m confident this is a championship we’re going to be in for awhile.”

With Colm Cavanagh and Justin McMahon patrolling the “D”, Barton knows what Derry can’t do against Tyrone. “The opposition is going to have two sweepers. We can’t kick it down their throat, we can’t kick it down the middle so there are challenges there in terms of breaking that down.

“The boys have embraced it, we realised the challenge, we realised that they (Tyrone) know the challenge they have as well because we’re playing at home and Tyrone are going to have to come and beat us.”


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