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'Horse Devlin Is The Best Coach I've Ever Seen'

'Horse Devlin Is The Best Coach I've Ever Seen'
By PJ Browne

Sam Mulroy believes that winning a Leinster Championship is a "realistic goal" for the Louth footballers. "If there's any man who's going to do it, it's going to be Mickey Harte and Gavin Devlin," the Louth captain - top scorer in this year's Allianz Football League - told BBC Radio Ulster's The GAA Social podcast.

Harte took over as Louth manager for the 2021 season, with Tyrone All-Ireland winner Devlin as his key lieutenant. They joined with the county in Division 4, and have since guided them to successive promotions. This weekend, they play Limerick in the Divsion 3 final.

"Horse Devlin is the best coach I've ever seen," said Mulroy.

"It's not about me any more. That was my whole mindset shift. Gavin Devlin was behind that mindset shift. He said, 'You can be the best player you want in Division 4, but you're going to get no recognition, or you can actually bring this team along with you and show them the way, and get to Division 2 or Division 1'.

"On a personal level, he has made me so much better than I was. Aside from his actual coaching ability and his tactical awareness, he makes me feel like I'm the best in Ireland.

"Normally we'll look into who's going to tag me, and our other scoring forwards. I'll probably be tagged most matches.

"He just came up to me [on Thursday night before the game against Wicklow on Sunday] and said, 'You just be Sam Mulroy'. There was nothing about, 'He's going to tag you or anything like that'. That wasn't disrespecting Wicklow. It was like, 'It doesn't matter any more to you'.

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"There's a sense now that he believes in me. To feel that belief from him makes me feel like I'm the best player in Ireland at times. He has no bother telling me that or no bother telling the team that if he thinks someone is good, give him the ball."

27 March 2022; Louth goalkeeper James Califf leaves the field injured during the GAA Allianz Football League Division 3 match between Wicklow and Louth at County Grounds in Aughrim, Wicklow. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

One of Louth's most intriguing tactical decisions this season has been the recalling of James Califf after a two-year absence. Usually a midfielder, Califf has been deployed between the sticks by Harte and Devlin.

"There are other technical and tactical stuff where he analyses the game," Mulroy added about Devlin.

"I suppose the big one was when our new keeper James Califf came in. He played midfield for Louth for years. James still plays midfield for his club.

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"Gavin rang me on a Tuesday. I think it was after the O'Byrne Cup. Crouchy (Craig Lynch), the Louth goalkeeper, was after leaving.

"He said, 'Sam, I have the answer'. I said, 'What are you on about, Gavin?' This was a random Tuesday. He said, 'I know who is going to play nets for us. James Califf'.

"I said, 'What?! Peach that plays in midfield for Clogher? Are you mad?' He goes, 'I'm after watching eight matches of the Louth Championships since Sunday'. He can see things.

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"By the end of the conversation, Gavin had convinced me that Peach could be the best goalkeeper in Ireland, and I said I'd ring Peach. He needed a little bit of convincing at the time. He was nervous looking. I would be, I don't think I'd go in nets."

GAA Quiz: Name The Top 10 Scorers In National Hurling League Division 1

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