Dual-boss Cunningham determined to stay the course with Garrycastle
IT WAS a day for hats at a chilly Croke Park yesterday and Anthony Cunningham was wearing both of his as he continued his dual role as manager of both Garrycastle footballers and Galway hurlers.
On the one hand, Cunningham is preparing for Sunday's Leinster club SFC final against St Brigid's of Dublin in Tullamore. On the other, he is looking towards 2012 and his task of reviving the fortunes of the struggling Tribesmen.
It is a double-job he intends to see through, even if the Athlone men win on Sunday and carry on until St Patrick's Day.
Cunningham knows that he will be under pressure to deliver for Galway, but he is committed to Garrycastle in what he has admitted will be his last season with the club.
"Even at the start of this year, I would have said to Garrycastle that this was the last year," he said. "They were going for three-in-a- row, so it was quite a lot of pressure and at that stage, the Galway scene wasn't there. So, yes, that's true. It'll be full focus on the Galway job after, but I hope it might continue until St Patrick's Day.
"Galway kicks off in earnest in the first of January, but we have a big backroom team there, two very good managers, or coaches, there in Tom and Mattie Kenny and it's the same in Garrycastle. It's never a problem when you're winning."
The Westmeath champions have no injury worries going into Sunday's decider, even if their manager will be patrolling the sideline at a walking pace after undergoing surgery on a damaged Achilles tendon.
In between training Garrycastle, he has taken an axe to the Galway panel in an attempt to freshen things up, but Cunningham says he will leave the door open for older players who were not in the initial selection.
"To be fair, a lot of players who aren't part of the panel now gave great service and we'll still look at them," he explained.
"It's very much an open door policy that we have in Galway. We also want to try quite a few new players and there's a huge development phase going to hit Galway because we have an awful lot of young players coming through.
"That's what we'll be using the league for. You know, there are a lot of experienced players who may not be part of the first section of the league, but who we could be looking at again."
And with the reduced numbers in the 2012 Allianz National League, Cunningham knows the Tribesmen will need to hit the ground running.
"This year's league is going to be highly competitive," he said. "The first match is like a mini-championship match to us, against Dublin.
"They're champions, they're the ones everyone wants to beat now and if you win your first match, it sets you up for maybe a semi-final shot. If you lose your first match, you're going to be fighting.
"We have two home games, three away and every county is going to address it the same (way). The fact that it's gone back to the end of February now gives more time for preparation."