Wednesday 28 September 2016

Bizarre, brutal and bonkers ...

Managerial madness rife as Evans and McCorry are squeezed out

Published 26/08/2015 | 02:30

John Evans, left, and Jim McCorry lost out in the blame game
John Evans, left, and Jim McCorry lost out in the blame game

When John Evans and Jim McCorry shook hands after the Roscommon-Down Allianz League Division 2 final in Croke Park in late April, they would have wished each the best of luck in the championship and looked forward to renewing rivalry in Division 1 next spring.

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That's assuming, of course, that their paths didn't cross in the championship. It didn't happen and it won't be happening in Division 1 either, since both managers were, effectively, forced out in recent weeks.

McCorry survived a county board vote (22-20) in Down and while that was so close as to make his position virtually untenable, he was prepared to continue if he believed he had the full backing of the county's top brass.

Serious

A meeting early last week left him in serious doubt as to whether that was the case, after which he resigned.

Thus ended the one-season reign of the Armagh man, who managed his native country in 1992-95 and who enjoyed extensive success on the club circuit, notably with Kilcoo, whom he led to four Down titles.

Evans completed his third season as Roscommon manager this year, having led the county to back-to-back promotions.

He was keen to continue, but quit because he believed there was an orchestrated campaign under way to block his reappointment.

So then, the two counties that won promotion to Division 1 in April are seeking new managers in August.

Why? It's all to do with the championship and the failure by Down and Roscommon to reach expectations, unrealistic or otherwise.

Here's what happened. Down, who had Conaill McGovern controversially dismissed a minute after half-time, lost by a point to Derry in Celtic Park.

It was scarcely a big surprise in what has always been a close rivalry. What McCorry's critics couldn't take was the five-point defeat by Wexford in Innovate Wexford Park in the qualifiers.

Unquestionably, Down performed poorly, but it wasn't the first time Wexford stunned them, having won a Round 4 qualifier tie by seven points in Croke Park in 2008.

One of the criticisms of McCorry was that he hadn't worked hard enough to persuade some older players to remain on the panel this season.

Is it being seriously suggested that would have made a positive difference? After all, those players were aboard over the previous two seasons when Down managed only one win in Ulster and didn't get past Round 2 of the qualifiers in either year.

Facts may be cold and harsh, but they don't lie. Those who forced McCorry out of Down have achieved nothing except another victory for self-delusion, wrapped in self-importance. It's a destructive combination.

There were rumblings in the Roscommon undergrowth for quite some time and while it quietened after the Division 2 success, the defeat by Sligo, followed by the qualifier elimination against Fermanagh, whipped up more anti-Evans sentiment.

If the Connacht defeat had been against Mayo or Galway, Evans wouldn't have felt as much heat but Sligo? Roscommon found that hard to stomach.

Yet, when this year's clash is taken into account, the last 12 championship results between Roscommon and Sligo since the start of the 1980s stand at five wins each with two draws.

So what's the origin of Roscommon's perceived superiority over Sligo? It's certainly not supported by facts. Roscommon's qualifier win over Cavan re-ignited hopes of a good summer, but it fizzled out when Fermanagh beat them in dramatic circumstances.

A defeat away to Cavan would have been far more palatable, but Fermanagh? In the rush to blame Evans, the fact that rapidly-improving Fermanagh had won promotion to Division 2, just as Roscommon had done a year earlier, was ignored.

Outbreaks

There have been outbreaks of manager-bashing away from Down and Roscommon too. Eamonn O'Hara was critical of manager Niall Carew after Sligo's defeat by Tyrone, which followed the demolition by Mayo.

Of course, the Connacht final mauling was hard on Sligo, but they weren't the first team to feel the full brunt of Mayo's power on a good day. After all, Donegal and Galway lost to Mayo by 17 and 16 points respectively in 2013.

Losing by seven points to Tyrone, who ran All-Ireland favourites Kerry so close last Sunday, was no bad performance by a much less experienced Sligo side, especially when their missed opportunities are taken into account.

Still, virtually every manager who presides over a championship loss can expect to be blamed in some form or other. In the case of McCorry and Evans, it even extended to being forced out. It's not only bizarre and brutal, it's bonkers.

Irish Independent

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