New wave of thinking 'outside' box
Non-native manager numbers on rise despite added cost for county boards in tough times, writes Donnchadh Boyle
Published 01/12/2010 | 05:00
DESPITE the cost of running inter-county teams being a county board's single biggest outgoing in the year end books, the number of 'outside' managers operating in GAA circles will increase from 2010 to 2011 -- recession or no recession.
The financial hit associated with employing 'outside' managers is generally higher due to the cost of travel involved, but that has done little to dissuade counties in both football and hurling from looking beyond their own borders.
Across the 32 counties, 18 football teams will be managed by not non-natives, an increase of two from 2010.
And there's a similar story among the Liam MacCarthy Cup sides with eight of those to be coached by outsiders, an increase of one from last year.
And with Westmeath to compete in hurling's top flight in 2011 after their Christy Ring success, it means a total nine of next season's 14 MacCarthy cup counties will be trained by outsiders.
In some of those cases, managers have relocated to their adopted county. For example, Mayo native Maurice Horan played for Limerick and Clare boss Micheal McDermott hails from Cavan, but is based in Ennis. Galway hurling boss John McIntyre is a Tipperary native, but is based out west.
Also, some outside managers are based close to the border of the country they coach, thereby minimising expense, but for others, considerable travelling is involved, pushing the price up for officials who have reported increasing difficulty in securing funding over the past number of years.
In football, Ulster remain the most likely to appoint from within their own boundaries. Only Antrim, Down and Cavan have appointed outsiders, though Dubliner Val Andrews shares the Breffni County ticket with local man Terry Hyland.
Without a visit from Sam Maguire since 1999, Leinster are enduring their longest barren run without an All-Ireland since the 1930s. And counties in the eastern province have shown to be the most open to the idea of 'importing,' with eight of the 12 counties under the watchful eyes of outsiders for 2011.
Only Dublin, Louth, Kilkenny and Carlow have natives running their senior teams, though Barrowside boss Luke Dempsey is based in Westmeath.
Laois and Meath went 'outside' this winter and the Royal's decision to hand the reins to Seamus McEnaney -- the first non-Meath man to hold the role -- was one of the most high-profile decisions of the close season, with the county's executive going to great lengths to assure delegates that the decision was affordable.
Meath treasurer Pat Clerkin came in for widespread acclaim for his presentation on the costs involved in appointing the new management team of McEnaney, Martin McElkennon and Paul Grimley. He released unprecedented detail of the finance required, right down to the nightly cost of the physiotherapist.
He also outlined areas where savings could be made, urging players not to swap jerseys post-match and scrapping the team training holiday that had become a regular fixture in the Royals' preparation.
In these times, he agrees that counties have to be more innovative in order to reach the level of funding their activity requires.
"You run your county board like you run a business. If it's not coming in, it's not going out, it's as simple as that," said the former bank manager, who was last night due to present Meath's accounts to the county committee.
"You are elected by the clubs and you have to be transparent in what you do. There is no point in being any other way about it. Apart from our teams we have (Meath Centre of Excellence) Dunganny and Pairc Tailteann to run as well. We have a couple of projects we'd like to get stuck into. We'd like to redevelop our main stand in Navan and we could get on with Phases Two and Three of Dunganny, but it's not easy in the present climate.
"County boards are being hit from every angle. The Leinster Council grant of €15,000 has been diverted into one of the regional centres of excellence that are being built.
"We get administration grants from Croke Park, too, but who knows what's coming down the line with that.
"Our main sponsorship deal is a very good one, but internal sponsorships of our leagues and competitions are down as well. Even the hoarding around Pairc Tailteann doesn't bring in as much as it used to, so you are being hit on all sides. But success breeds success and we have new managers in both hurling and football and if you give people something to row in behind, they'll get on board."
Still, county boards seem keen to look past their own confines. The increase in 'outside' manager interest also comes in the wake of the IRFU's spectacular miscalculation of their prices for the Autumn Series that led to paltry crowds, with the GAA bracing themselves for similar difficulties.
On the All Stars tour in Kuala Lumpur this week, GAA President Christy Cooney admitted that Croke Park will look at its ticket pricing ahead of next year.
Gate receipts are one of the major incomes for counties and while attendances have held up in recent seasons, any cut in the prices at the stiles would present yet another challenge for county boards.