Back to the future
In a month when Eamonn McEneaney took on a second stint in Monaghan and Nicky English topped Tipperary's wish-list, Martin Breheny examines the history of managerial returns
Published 30/10/2010 | 05:00
RARELY has such a popular figure disappointed his people so much. Nicky English's decision to rule himself out of a return as Tipperary hurling manager has saddened the county's supporters, just when they thought the succession stakes had been sorted out to their total satisfaction.
They were stunned by Liam Sheedy's departure a few weeks after the All-Ireland success but thought that the damage to the drive for two-in-a-row would be minimised by English's return.
Replacing an All-Ireland-winning manager is a tough proposition, not least because if there a dip in performance levels the natural tendency for the squad is to attribute it to the new boss. After all, we were successful last year so what's the difference this time? The manager, of course!
However, that would not have been an issue in Tipperary under English, as he had presided over an All-Ireland win in 2001, giving him total credibility. He would have ensured the smoothest of transitions at a time when Tipperary hurling is at its buoyant best.
English's decision not to return is understandable. Apart from his business commitments with AIB, he lives in Dublin, which would greatly increase the time element involved in managing Tipperary.
He did it 10 years ago but then the business environment was completely different back then. Apart from that, there were risks involved if he returned. Would it be as good as a decade ago? Then he was trying to make the breakthrough, whereas he would now be walking into a dressing-room full of recent All-Ireland winners.
Returning for a second stint is always fraught with danger. It has worked for some managers but not for others including, it must be said, another Tipperary man, Babs Keating.
Irish Independent columnist Cyril Farrell had three stints in charge of Galway and although the first two were very successful, the third yielded nothing.
"It doesn't matter whether you're managing for the first, second or third time, it's all down to the quality of players available," he said. "Having said that, I suppose you tend to mellow as you get older so the same ruthlessness might not be there. It was there for me when I came back in the mid-80s and I thought it was there when I went back in the 90s but maybe it wasn't quite the same."
Only a few men have gone back to the same county more than twice, but there have been plenty of examples of managers returning for a second spell.
Farrell believes that English's decision is a blow to Tipperary but says it also highlights the difficulties involved in managing at the highest level nowadays.
"It's so demanding and time-consuming. The pressures seem to be increasing all the time," he said. "Tipperary are officially the best team in the country at present, yet you have two top managers (Sheedy and English) who don't want the job essentially because of the difficulty in balancing work, family and hurling.
"How many more managers are going to walk away in future for the same reason? Whatever about having one go at it, I doubt if you'll see many of them returning for second stints."
The Return of the Manager
How they fared in second and subsequent stints:
Galway 1980-82; 1985-91; 1997-98
Farrell managed Galway hurlers for 12 seasons in blocks of three, seven and two years. The first two terms were hugely successful as his advanced systems coalesced with a high talent stream to produce a powerful force.
Galway won the All-Ireland for the first time in 57 years in 1980 and captured the two-in-a-row in 1987-88 as well as the NHL title in 1987 and '89.
It was easily Galway's greatest decade and when they went six years into the 1990s without an All-Ireland win, they returned to Farrell in late 1996.
However, his third term didn't work out. Galway lost the 1997 All-Ireland quarter-final to Kilkenny and were beaten by 10 points by Waterford in 1998, after which Farrell stood down.
Twelve years later, Galway are still waiting for their next All-Ireland success.
Tipperary 1987-1994; 2006-2007
Keating led a Premier revolution after 16 years in the championship wilderness, guiding Tipperary to the Munster title in 1987, followed two years later by an All-Ireland win.
Another All-Ireland followed in 1991 and by the time Keating resigned in '94, he had presided over a remarkable period which garnered two All-Ireland, one NHL and five Munster titles.
His second coming a dozen years later was nowhere nearly as productive. It lasted two seasons and ended rather controversially after an All-Ireland quarter-final defeat by Wexford in 2007.
Keating came in for heavy criticism locally for having Brendan Cummins, Eoin Kelly and Shane McGrath, all of whom have played significant roles for Tipperary since, on the bench. Wexford won with a late goal but were well beaten by Kilkenny in the semi-final.
Kildare 1991-94; 1997-2002
O'Dwyer's second coming definitely worked. Kildare just couldn't figure out a way to beat Dublin in his first stint but it was different second time around.
Kildare won their first Leinster title since 1956 in 1998 and added a second two years later. However, the All-Ireland title eluded them -- they lost the 1998 final to Galway, who also beat them in the 2000 semi-final. If only John Doyle had been a few years older! He might have made all the difference. Still, O'Dwyer presided over Kildare's best period since the 1930s.
Mayo 1996-2000; 2004-06
The unluckiest manager of his generation? Quite possibly. The memory of the ball bouncing over the bar from Colm Coyle's long-range kick in the last minute of the 1996 All-Ireland final to earn Meath a draw still haunts Mayo supporters, as does the replay, where Mayo led for long periods before losing by a point.
A year later, Mayo lost the final to Kerry, for whom Maurice Fitzgerald produced an incredible performance.
Maughan steered Mayo to two more All-Ireland finals (2004 and '06) in his second stint but lost heavily to Kerry on both occasions. He was in line for a third term after John O'Mahony's departure this year but withdrew from the race.
Mayo 1988-91; 2007-10
His managerial career will be recalled much more for his successes with Galway and Leitrim than with his native Mayo.
He led Mayo to an All-Ireland final in 1989 -- their first since 1951 -- but that was as good as it got in either of his stints.
However, he had great times in Galway (All-Ireland wins in 1998 and 2001) and Leitrim (first Connacht title for 67 years in 1994). One Connacht title (followed by an All-Ireland quarter-final defeat) from his last four years with Mayo was disappointing, especially in the qualifier era which carries a second chance. For whatever reason, his second coming with Mayo never quite worked out.
Donegal 1972-76 (player/manager); 1980-86; 1990-94; 2003-05
McEniff managed Donegal in every decade since the 1970s, and he enjoyed several successes, including the All-Ireland breakthrough in 1992.
He was player/manager on the team that won Ulster titles in 1972 (Donegal's first) and 1974. In his second coming Donegal won the Ulster title in 1983.
However, it was his third term which ignited Donegal, who won an Ulster title in 1990 before going on to capture a first ever All-Ireland crown in 1992.
McEniff returned as manager in 2003, leading Donegal to the All-Ireland semi-final, via the qualifiers, where they lost to Armagh.
Derry 1991-94; 1999-2002
One of football's great characters, the late Ballymaguigan man was in charge when Derry won their first All-Ireland SFC title in 1993, having picked up a first NFL title for 45 years a year earlier.
In one of the daftest decisions ever made by the Derry County Board he was replaced after the 1994 championship, but he returned at the end of 1998 for a four-year stint. Derry won the NFL title in 2000 and reached the All-Ireland semi-final in 2001, via the qualifiers, where they lost to Galway.
Monaghan 1978-80; 1984-86; 1988-89; 1996-97 (with Eamonn McEnaney)
Monaghan have won three Ulster finals since 1938, all of which were achieved with McCague as manager. The 1979 success ended a 41-year wait and was followed with further titles 1985 and '88.
Monaghan also won a first NFL title under McCague in 1985, a year in which they lost to Kerry in an All-Ireland semi-final replay. McCague later served a fourth stint as joint manager with Eamonn McEneaney, who has recently taken over from Seamus McEnaney.
Cork 1987-96; 2004-07
The second coming didn't work, certainly not in terms of landing the elusive All-Ireland title.
Morgan enjoyed a successful first term with a squad which not only broke up the great Kerry empire of that era but went on to win two All-Ireland, seven Munster and one NFL titles between 1987 and 1995.
Re-appointed in late 2003, Morgan steered Cork to an All-Ireland final in 2007 but, as in the '05 and '06 semi-finals, they couldn't match Kerry at Croke Park. However, that particular puzzle wasn't solved in '08 or '09 either.
Kerry 2004-06; 2009-present
Two All-Ireland titles in his first three-year stint and a further crown in the first year of his second term leaves O'Connor with a very high strike rate.
Now the question is whether he can preside over a transition phase while maintaining Kerry as serious All-Ireland contenders. In a dual-chance championship, the odds are that he will.
Tyrone 1980-87: 1992-96 and 1999-2002 (with Eugene McKenna)
Would Tyrone have won their first All-Ireland a lot earlier if they hadn't lost Eugene McKenna and John Lynch to injury in the 1986 All-Ireland final, a game where they led Kerry by seven points early in the second half? Quite probably.
Should Tyrone have drawn the 1995 All-Ireland final (remember the disallowed point against Dublin in the final minute)? Quite probably.
McCrory (with McKenna) had a third spell in charge but while the Ulster title was secured in 2001, the All-Ireland remained elusive and their term ended in 2002. A year later, Mickey Harte led Tyrone to a first All-Ireland title.
Dublin 1974-76; 1978-86
Heffo's absence in 1977 was more a mini-break than a real separation. He left after securing two All-Ireland titles in three seasons, returned in 1978 and, while Dublin were reigning champions, Kerry were about to embark on a glory run, with Offaly later emerging to supplant Dublin as Leinster's No 1. However, Heffo's stubborn streak took Dublin back to the summit in dramatic circumstances in 1983 before they again fell under Kerry's spell. He quit, rather unexpectedly, in January 1986.
James McCartan /Val Kane
Down 1978-79; 1983-84
The first stint yielded an Ulster title in 1978, and Down won an NFL title in 1983.