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Sunday 21 September 2014

Colm O'Rourke: Settled managers becoming an endangered species

Colm O'Rourke expects some familiar issues to dominate the GAA's agenda in the year ahead

Published 10/01/2010 | 05:00

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A new year, with many of the same old problems, is upon us. For some it is even a time of peace and goodwill to all men, women and children.

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In most clubs, though, this goodwill will stop short of wishing success to their neighbours and greatest rivals -- the secret desire is to meet and beat them handsomely at some future date.

Then there is global warming. If this is it then include me in whatever group are in the opposite camp to the Greens, maybe the blues or the reds. What we need is a bit of heat and drought to replace floods and cold.

Anyway, since Mr Gormley and his friends want to ban stag hunting on the basis that it causes such stress to the deer, then he will soon be after the GAA as I have seen more stress at a juvenile football match than in any stag hunt. It might surprise many of the ban mentality that those who live in the country and hunt, shoot and fish are not some type of half civilised cavemen, but those who respect and care most for the environment they live in.

So while we live in strange and difficult times, at least the weather has taken our minds off the continuous moaning about banks and builders. I have every sympathy for most builders who worked hard, gave well-paid employment to very many footballers and hurlers and are now treated as some sort of social pariahs. The vast majority of these builders are decent people who have nothing to apologise for. In the end it is a small number of people who drive change and improvement for society as a whole, the word for them is speculators -- another less-than-favoured group at the moment -- while those who deride everybody never take risks.

So while 2010 may not appear very promising, the four horsemen of the apocalypse are not exactly on the horizon either. The year will be what we make it. The ice and cold will pass and soon pitches will be full of young men training with the best of intentions. Soon after that the new year resolutions will be thrown away like confetti at a wedding as the realities of this year turn out to be not too unlike last year.

The economic slowdown means a lot of people have more time to spend in the service of their club, either through unemployment or underemployment. There are plenty of good men and women who need the outlet of work even on an unpaid basis and they are available now. The GAA can act as a social service while reaping benefits too.

The other side of the coin is the big number of young people who are heading for Australia, Canada, USA, Britain and 100 other countries where they will jam bars on Sundays in their county jerseys to watch live football and hurling games and shout for something peculiarly Irish.

And player unrest will continue. In Limerick, it is death by a thousand cuts for Justin McCarthy. The county board support him, the players don't. If I was the manager, I would be much happier if it was the other way around; then there would be a realistic chance of survival. There is only one inevitable result here and it does not matter if Justin McCarthy is the best or the worst manager in the world. Without player support, there is no manager and eventually he walks, with or without his dignity.

This scene, which is being played out in many counties, is beginning to cause more than a little concern to many like myself who see players as people who are usually keen, ambitious, dedicated and want a set-up which gives them a chance to compete on a level playing field. What happens when it is the players who are the problem? I don't know the specifics of any individual county, but it can hardly be that the players are right all the time and managers are wrong all the time.

At least part of the problem lies in the appointment process. New guidelines have been issued about how to go about getting a new county manager, but the big difficulty is that many county boards still insist -- whether through a lust for power or ego -- on making appointments themselves instead of getting those with proven expertise in the area to do the job. The most important managerial position in a county is often decided by people who have no knowledge of what is involved, and within a couple of years there can be problems.

What boards need to do -- and at every level from juvenile to senior -- is to put the right people in charge of picking managers and then give the proper support to the manager, even if the players are getting edgy. In other words,

get the right man and stick by him for a few years. It is one area of administration where the county board can't run with the hare and hunt with the hounds -- if the Green Party will pardon the phrase.

The balance of power has shifted away from managers. There are so many ways of fermenting unrest. The easiest thing in the world for a player to do when dropped or taken off is to whip up a campaign through gossip, unattributed leaks to the local paper, or the latest and most cowardly way, to post messages on various GAA sites.

Everyone is entitled to their say but if somebody in charge of a team or a player is going to ship criticism -- and it is apparent that in some counties it is pretty vehement -- then at least those making the comments should have the moral courage to identify themselves. In fairness, most GAA websites are a great source of information and fun but nobody should be subjected to anonymous insult.

So in time the winds will change direction, the thaw will come and normal service will resume. Clubs will find all shapes and sizes turning out for training in the first few weeks while counties look for new and innovative training techniques to give them an edge. And after all that, Kerry usually win.

Hopefully this time around it will be somebody entirely new which will lift the county out of recession. It will be a great year.

Sunday Independent

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