Friday 30 September 2016

Here is how the GAA's 15 new football managers have rated so far

Mixed fortunes for the new men

Published 09/04/2015 | 02:30

Kieran McGeeney was on the receiving end this summer
Kieran McGeeney was on the receiving end this summer

If a good start is half the battle, Ulster trio Rory Gallagher, Jim McCorry, Kieran McGeeney, plus Offaly's Pat Flanagan, can start preparing for the next phase of war.

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They have all hit the early targets in their first season as managers in Donegal, Down, Armagh and Offaly respectively.

In contrast, Tom Cribbin, Colin Kelly and David Power, new bosses in Westmeath, Louth and Wexford respectively, have encountered problems, culminating in relegation for all three counties.

In Westmeath's case, it's a double drop from Divisions 1 to 3 in successive seasons, after winning only two of 14 games in two years.

Fifteen counties have new football bosses this season in what is one of the most extensive managerial turnovers for many years. Changeover is often accompanied by first-season bounce as a new voice sparks a positive reaction, although that hasn't been immediately apparent in several counties so far.

Of the 15 new appointments who started out this year, eight led their squads to top-four finishes in the various divisions while seven were in the bottom four. Here's how they fared.

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Rory Gallagher (Donegal)

4th Division 1 (7pts)

Donegal edged out Mayo and Kerry on scoring difference for the last semi-final berth after a campaign where four of their seven points were earned against Ulster rivals, Tyrone and Derry, which is encouraging for the championship.

Just how interested Gallagher is in reaching the league final on April 26 - three weeks before the Ulster championship opener against Tyrone - will become apparent in the performance against Cork on Sunday.

Noel Connelly/Pat Holmes (Mayo)

5th Division 1 (7pts)

Mayo missed out on the semi-finals (on scoring difference) for the first time since they were re-introduced in 2012. In itself, that is not a major setback, but losing to Dublin by 14 points certainly wasn't good for morale. In addition to being wiped out by one of their major rivals, the big losing margin cost Mayo a semi-final place. If they had kept the deficit down to eight or fewer points, they would be playing Cork next Sunday. And since they don't begin their Connacht title defence until June 14, more games would be welcome for the squad and the new management.

Jim McCorry (Down)

1st Division 2 (10pts) - Promoted

Down's 'away' form was crucial in their successful drive for promotion. They beat Kildare, Cavan and Westmeath on their travels and backed it up with home wins over Galway and Laois. They scored 11 goals, the highest return in the top two divisions. A good start for the former Armagh manager.

Kevin Walsh (Galway)

4th Division 2 (8pts)

While Galway beat Roscommon, John Evans' men are now officially No 2 in Connacht behind Mayo, having won promotion. Walsh will regard his first league campaign as an opportunity lost, especially since Galway beat Meath and Roscommon, who finished above them, and lost by a single point to table-toppers Down. The poor 'home' performances against Cavan and Laois wrecked Galway's promotion bid as they lost to both after twice scoring a meagre ten points.

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Tom Cribbin (Westmeath)

7th Division 2 (4pts) - Relegated

Westmeath were on a downward spin when Cribbin, a vastly experienced manager, took over and it continued after a promising start where they beat Laois and Westmeath and lost rather unluckily to Galway by a point. Clearly, a major re-build is needed, which will require patience on all sides. After all, Westmeath lost to Louth, who had been relegated from Division 2, and to Cavan (Division 3) in last year's championship so they can hardly be surprised by dropping out of the top 16.

Kieran McGeeney (Armagh)

2nd Division 3 (11pts) - Promoted

This league campaign was always about delivering an immediate return to Division 2, a target Armagh hit in six games. The concern for McGeeney is that playing in Division 3 didn't expose the players to the level of competition they will encounter in the championship. And since they reached last year's All-Ireland quarter-finals, expectations are high.

Niall Carew (Sligo)

4th Division 3 (6pts)

A similar finish to last year, which is slightly misleading, since Sligo were in relegation territory heading into the final game.

Still, they delivered in style against Armagh, hitting them for 1-19, which boosted Sligo's overall return to 1-102, the highest in the entire league. That's a positive to take into the championship, where they have a bye to the semi-final. Still, they were expected to be promotion contenders, not relegation worriers.

Colin Kelly (Louth)

7th Division 3 (4pts) - Relegated

Louth have won only two of 14 league games over two seasons - hence their drop from Divisions 2 to 4. Kelly said last January that patience was required as the heavy rebuilding work got under way. The league merely underlined the extent of the task ahead. Kelly certainly has plenty of work to do on a defence which leaked an average of almost 19 points per game.

David Power (Wexford)

8th Division 3 (4pts) - Relegated

A win over his native Tipperary last Sunday will have pleased Power, but it wasn't enough to ease Wexford off the relegation trap-door after a campaign where their lack of scoring power undermined them. They hit Tipperary for 2-15 but had averaged only 11 points per game up to then.

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Pat Flanagan (Offaly)

2nd Division 4 (11pts) - Promoted

Offaly dropped down to Division 4 with Longford last season and came back up with them this year. Promotion was the first target for Flanagan, who faces two more clashes with Longford in the Division 3 final and Leinster championship over the next five weeks. The May 16 showdown will go a long way towards defining Offaly's year.

Frank Fitzsimons (Antrim)

3rd Division 4 (9pts)

They lost the promotion shoot-out with Offaly last Sunday but it was still a much better league than last year when Antrim won only two games. However, it's disappointing for Antrim that they will be in Division 4 for a third successive season in 2016.

Shane Ward (Leitrim)

4th Division 4 (8pts)

A fourth-place finish, same as last year, but a point less earned. It's frustrating because they drew with both Longford and Offaly, who were promoted, and lost to Wicklow by a point.

That's a lot of close calls in a seven-match campaign leaving them wondering what might have happened if they enjoyed a little more luck. Leitrim were one of 11 counties in all divisions who lost only two or fewer games, which is encouraging.

Turlough O'Brien (Carlow)

5th Division 4 (6pts)

It's a three-point better finish than last year, plus their give-away rate dropped by an average of 8.5 points per game.

Considering that after a miserable 2014 league, Carlow were hit for 7-13 by Meath and for 4-26 by Clare in last year's championship, the need for a defensive realignment was clear.

So far, so good, on that front at least, but there's work to do with an attack that averaged 12 points per game.

Tom McGlinchey (Waterford)

6th Division 4 (3pts)

After winning the McGrath Cup, where they beat Cork in the final, it was a disappointing league for Waterford, made all the more frustrating by the fact that three of the five defeats were by two-point margins.

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Johnny Magee (Wicklow)

7th Division 4 (3pts)

Seven points and four places worse off than last year, the last few months will have left Magee with much to consider, especially since they were regarded as genuine promotion contenders at the start of the campaign. And with the Leinster championship taking Wicklow to Navan to take on Meath, it looks as if the All-Ireland qualifiers will be the only means of rescuing the season.

Irish Independent

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