Wednesday 31 August 2016

Colm O'Rourke: Rejection of McEnaney could trigger a player revolt

The latest managerial twist in Meath shows that change is needed, writes Colm O'Rourke

Published 07/11/2010 | 05:00

At this stage most people have tired of the Meath management saga and that is just people within the county. To those on the outside it just shows there is something materially wrong in Meath when there is such difficulty in appointing and holding on to a manager.

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The story so far. After Eamonn O'Brien was dumped without much gratitude, a committee of three (chairman Barney Allen, 1988 All-Ireland winning captain Joe Cassells, and solicitor Liam Keane, who has extensive experience of Meath football and has also been heavily involved in the DRA) was appointed. Their brief was to recommend a management group to the county board.

This all sounds simple, but when their proposal of Seamus McEnaney went to the executive, it appears there were a few dissenting voices. This is quite amazing. As the executive had appointed the three-man committee, their recommendation should have been merely rubber-stamped and sent forward to the clubs for approval.

The issue of going for someone outside Meath seems to be a big one. It would appear to me though that if Gerry Cooney, the other serious contender, or anyone else was put before the executive there would not be unanimous agreement, such are the divisions. Quite why the matter is not just put straight to delegates at a county board meeting baffles me. The executive would all have a vote anyway and, after all, it is the clubs who should decide.

The matter has now been cleared to go before the clubs next week, even if it seems that the executive thinks club delegates need to be protected from themselves.

If delegates don't accept the recommendation of Seamus McEnaney, then there is a real problem. The only way out for those involved in the three-man committee would be to resign and pave the way for a new group to look for an alternative Meath candidate.

This might mean having some definition of what constitutes a Meathman as a huge number of clubs, especially in south Meath, have major involvement by people who have only recently moved into the county. And some of the executive are not from Meath either. And some of the players who helped win All-Irelands for Meath were not born in Meath. It's a very grey area indeed.

The real danger now is if the nomination of Seamus McEnaney is not accepted, there will be a revolt by players who seem to have very heavily favoured his management team. They see themselves as way behind in preparation compared to others at this stage and want closure. Maybe a different type of regime, where there are no club or personal loyalties, is needed to challenge players to either 'perform or else' -- because performance levels have been neither consistent nor of sufficient quality over the last few years. Perhaps it's time to remove the safety net.

When something like this drags on for so long it inevitably draws attention and speculation at a time when GAA news is in short supply. Every article seems to heighten paranoia about leaks to the press and even I have been accused of leaking to rival newspapers. A golden rule of journalism is that you never give a story to rivals, so the executive need to look elsewhere for their moles. And, of course, conscientious objections to the appointment of an outsider are understandable. There are many committed GAA people in Meath who genuinely

believe that it should be kept in-house. I don't have strong views that it should automatically be kept for a blue-blooded Meath man. A couple of months ago, I wrote an article which suggested deep divisions and a lack of direction in Meath football. In general, when you write something controversial about any topic the response you get is normally from people who do not agree with you. The rest just don't bother. I have been writing for this paper for almost 20 years and the biggest response to any article I have written was to that one on Meath -- with almost nobody disagreeing with what I wrote. Football, like politics, is always local.

This latest saga only makes me more convinced of the need for a full-time chief executive who would bring vision, organisation and authority to a county where the resources of manpower, finance, commitment and players are there in abundance. Otherwise, we will continue to lurch from one crisis to another.

Sunday Independent

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