McEnaney's future hanging in the balance
MEATH Meath football is facing into yet another winter of introspection, something which has become commonplace for the former 'Royal kings of Leinster' since the departure of Sean Boylan in 2005.
Defeat to Kildare in Navan on Saturday night brought an end to a season that yielded just three wins -- over Sligo, Louth and Galway -- across league and championship, and the county is bracing itself for another stormy off-season.
For a team that has reached two All-Ireland semi-finals in the last five seasons, that is a poor return. Throw the resignation of 'native' selectors Liam Harnan and Barry Callaghan into the mix and an argument for change at the top can be made.
However, getting rid of Seamus McEnaney would mean a fifth manager for Meath since Boylan's decision to step down, with the Monaghan man following Eamonn Barry, Colm Coyle and Eamonn O'Brien out the door.
Meath were in the dressing-room for close to an hour after the game on Saturday night, where muted rounds of applause could be heard intermittently. There were no retirements and no one's story was bookended. But neither did McEnaney commit to Meath for 2012.
He'll make his decision in tandem with assistants Paul Grimley and Martin McElkennon, and given his extensive business interests, there's a theory that he'll walk away before anyone gets the chance to push them.
That chance won't come until the next county board meeting, most likely on Monday, August 8, with county secretary Cyril Creavin agreeing that McEnaney's position could be discussed.
"He was given a three-year term with a review after two," Creavin said. "It won't be on the official agenda but it can be brought up from the floor. So it might be discussed, but you can't predict what will happen."
Recent managerial hunts haven't proved overly fruitful. Some of the high-profile members of the 1987-88 team have resisted the temptation to allow their names to go forward, while of the 'outside' managers linked with the post, Luke Dempsey came within a whisker of being appointed before O'Brien was installed.
The other major stakeholders in all of this, the players, seem to have pinned their colours firmly to McEnaney's mast.
There was very little in the way of dissension in the wake of the departure of Harnan and Callaghan, and team captain Seamus Kenny has given strong backing to the manager.
"The players would acknowledge what Seamus has brought to the side," said the Simonstown Gaels clubman, who was forced from the field on Saturday night with a cut on his head that required seven stitches.
"It was definitely the most professional set-up since I've been involved with Meath. There was nothing left to chance, from nutrition to video analysis and everything else.
"It was a difficult year with Seamus being the first outside manager. We were probably under more scrutiny than ever and we couldn't get a performance together. It was very frustrating. We only felt like we were getting it together against Louth and Galway. We were sick on Saturday night."
McEnaney will point to the emergence of players like Bryan Menton, Ciaran Lenehan, Mark O'Sullivan and Paddy Gilsenan as positives, while Gary O'Brien and Shane McAnarney look reborn under the current regime.
His opponents, though, will say that the management team in place isn't the ticket that was ratified by the clubs, in which Harnan's official title was 'assistant manager'.
And so Meath face another major decision less than 12 months after making one of the most significant in their history.
The clubs bared their teeth last year when O'Brien was put up for ratification for another term, something which is widely regarded as a result of the crossfire between the clubs and the executive after the controversy of the 2010 Leinster final.
Whether there is an appetite for more change in Meath remains to be seen, but the last few winters have been nothing if not unpredictable.