independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

The players and bosses on mission to grab spotlight in 2013

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte

Every year, according to Johnny Doyle, fresh from Kildare's O'Byrne Cup success over Wexford on Sunday, is "do-or-die" when it was suggested that 2013 had been earmarked that way for his team.

But for some, as the football campaign moves away from the embryonic stages of the pre-season provincial competitions, there is plenty at stake in the months ahead for a variety of circumstances.

Here, we look at those for whom 2013 will have a special emphasis.

1 Mickey Harte (Tyrone)

Harte has become much more to Tyrone than just their senior team football manager.

His position is among the most secure in the game, with an agreement to stay until 2015 at least.

But 2013 remains a very big year for one of the greatest ever sideline generals. Is it really conceivable that Jim McGuinness's Donegal would take his team out in the Ulster championship three years running?

The Tyrone players noted that when trials were being organised last October, it was Mickey (right) who was making the calls. He seems renewed, reinvigorated and ready to relish one of his biggest challenges in over a decade of Tyrone management.

2 David Moran (Kerry)

Just as he was preparing to return after missing most of the 2011 campaign, Moran suffered a recurrence of a cruciate ligament injury that put him out for 2012 as well.

When he emerged from Kerry's All-Ireland-winning U-21 team in 2008 he looked like he could anchor the Kingdom midfield for the following decade, once he could resist the lure of the AFL.

But as he heads towards his mid-20s that potential impact hasn't been felt due to the injuries he has had to deal with. Not an easy task to come back off a two-year lay-off, but time is still on his side.

3 John Galvin (Limerick)

Like Moran, cruciate trouble has taken two years out of Galvin. Unlike Moran, time is running out for him in his pursuit of an elusive Munster medal.

Galvin's determination to stick to his task is admirable, given how Cork and Kerry are on opposite sides of the draw in Munster. Few players in the game deserve a break more.

4 Conor Counihan (Cork)

An All-Ireland title, two Munster titles, three league titles – and yet there is a body of opinion that suggests Counihan may not have got the most out of this Cork squad over the five years. It's a harsh assessment.

Cork have consistently been in the top three on his watch, but their loss of the tactical battle against Donegal in last year's All-Ireland semi-final was most pointed. Counihan has a new back-room team in place, but there is a sense that this Cork team must add to their 2010 All-Ireland title to put a real gloss on the era.

5 Michael Meehan (Galway)

Plagued by injuries over the last three years, Meehan did well to get back on a football field at all in 2012 after the diagnosis he received for a damaged ankle towards the end of 2011.

Now he finds himself the senior partner in the Galway attack, with Padraic Joyce and Joe Bergin retiring. The indications are that Meehan will be able to play a more meaningful role this season and he'll find much of the responsibility back on him.

6 Diarmuid Connolly (Dublin)

Which Connolly will surface in 2013 – the one who delivered that sublime performance against Tyrone in the 2011 All-Ireland quarter-final and showed similar glimpses in league games against Armagh and Laois last season, or the one who engaged in petulance in games against Mayo and Wexford when he picked up red cards?

There is plenty of attacking talent in Dublin. Jim Gavin will be keen to maximise Connolly, but will he persevere if it's coming at a price?

7 Mick O'Dwyer (Clare)

Mick O'Dwyer has done it all and seen it all and his reputation as Gaelic football's greatest manager will not be compromised by what's ahead.

But in every job he has taken he has made an impact in the first year and this is something he would like to continue.

Even in 1990, Kildare reached the league final. If he doesn't repeat such feats, his alliance with the Banner county could peter out quite quickly. Taking over the reins in Clare represents a different challenge for him.

8 Kieran Donaghy (Kerry)

A big year for Donaghy, not just because of a very big date in his life this Friday.

His consistency for Kerry has been nowhere near as pronounced as it was in the early part of his career and while his telepathic axis with Colm Cooper remains one of the most feared in the game – the Tyrone clash in Killarney springs to mind – Donaghy will feel the need to put in a really big season after a couple of indifferent ones.

9 James Horan (Mayo)

Horan has showed over the last week that he is not going to take criticism of Mayo lying down. If it helps to inject a little siege mentality into the squad to build on their recovery in the All-Ireland final last September then it will have served a purpose.

It makes 2013 an even bigger year for Mayo and their manager, who has brought them so far in just two years. A semi-final appearance in year one, a final appearance in year two... the next step on that path of natural progression in year three is to become champions. Easier said than done.

10 Seanie Johnston (Kildare)

Johnston will have been happy to have put 2012 behind him and will hope for a more understated year ahead.

He never got out of the blocks last season due to his protracted transfer from Cavan, so, once he shakes off a calf injury he has had since before Christmas, he'll be keen to show that all the effort to become a Kildare player was worth it.

With James Kavanagh out of the picture, Kildare could do with a kicker of outrageous points like him.

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