Friday 20 October 2017

New kids on the block

With 10 men preparing to take charge of their first games with new counties, Donnchadh Boyle assesses what they will bring to the job -- and rates their chances of delivering success

Donegal: Jim McGuiness
Donegal: Jim McGuiness
Meath: Seamus McEnaney
Galway: Tomas O Flatharta
Mayo: James Horan
Laois: Justin McNulty
Monaghan: Eamonn McEneaney
Limerick: Maurice Horan
Derry: John Brennan
Cavan: Val Andrews
Fermanagh: John O'Neill

THE waiting is almost over for the 10 managers stepping into a first season of inter-county management with their new sides.

Some of the appointments, like that of Seamus McEnaney in Meath, caused much rancour while others, like the selection of Jim McGuinness in Donegal, were relatively straightforward.

Westmeath have officially handed the job to Pat Flanagan, who took charge in a caretaker role last season and is not included here. Ulster has seen the most change with Donegal, Derry, Monaghan, Cavan and Fermanagh all appointing new managers, while two of the biggest jobs in football -- in Mayo and Galway -- were also filled by new faces.

Donegal

Manager profile: Jim McGuinness is a recently retired player from the Naomh Conaill club that performed so impressively in the Ulster club championship, McGuinness was the baby of the 1992 All-Ireland winning squad and brought the county's Under-21s to an All Ireland final appearance last year.

Why he's there: Under John Joe Doherty, Donegal went out of the qualifiers with barely a whimper away to Armagh, a performance that prompted Kevin Cassidy to retire, though he has since been coaxed back. Had promotion to Division 1 in their hands on the final day of the league last year.

What he'll bring: His Under-21 side were a fine example of discipline and application, so expect the senior side to be similar. He also has a professional background in team-building through his 'Achieve Consultancy' business.

What makes a good year: Undoubtedly talented, Donegal don't always live up to their billing and have failed to reach a consistent level of performance. Their Ulster championship opens with a home tie against Antrim, and with the winners playing Cavan, a spot in a provincial semi-final, where they would face Tyrone or Monaghan, is very achievable.

Derry

Manager profile: John Brennan narrowly missed out on the Derry job in 2004 when he lost by a single vote to the incumbent Mickey Moran. He has extensive club experience in Derry after spells in charge of Loup, Slaughtneil and Lavey, and he also had stints with clubs in Antrim and Tyrone. However, the expected team-up with 1993 All-Ireland winning captain Henry Downey didn't materialise.

Why he's there: A second-half collapse against Kildare in Celtic Park marked the end of Damien Cassidy's reign as Derry eventually lost to the Lilywhites by 11 points. They also lost their Division 1 status.

What he'll bring: He has an extensive knowledge of the club scene in the county and has already persuaded veterans like Enda Muldoon, Paddy Bradley and Kevin McCloy to continue for another year.

What makes a good year: Another side that needs to find some level of consistency. Paddy Bradley went on record last year as saying he felt Derry were good enough to beat "a Cork or a Kerry" on their day. They face Fermanagh at home in an Ulster quarter-final before taking on the winners of Armagh and Down. If Brennan can find what makes them tick, an Ulster final appearance certainly isn't beyond them.

Monaghan

Manager profile: Eamonn McEneaney returns for his second stint in charge after holding a joint ticket with former GAA president Sean McCague in the 1990s. He spent four years with Louth from 2006 to 2009, during which time the Wee County picked up a Division 2 league title, an O'Byrne Cup, the Tommy Murphy Cup and a Leinster junior title.

Why he's there: Seamus McEnaney looked set for a seventh year but didn't partake in the interview process, which cleared the way for McEneaney to return. Monaghan retained their Division 1 status and got out of the blocks quickly in the championship, hammering Armagh by 12 points, but Tyrone stopped them in their tracks before Kildare finished the job in Croke Park

What he'll bring: A respected footballer in Monaghan, he is best remembered for kicking a famous equaliser against Kerry in the 1985 All-Ireland semi-final. His term with Louth was also generally considered progressive.

What makes a good year: Shane Duffy, Stephen Gollogly, Conor McManus, Vinny Corey, Eoin Lennon, John Paul Mone and Kieran Hughes are all expected to miss the start of the league campaign, meaning that retaining Division 1 status would be an achievement. They also face a difficult trip to Omagh to face Tyrone in an Ulster quarter-final.

Cavan

Manager profile: Local man Terry Hyland is on a joint ticket with Val Andrews. Hyland guided the county's Under-21 side to an Ulster final last year and he was also part of Andrews' back-room team for his last stint with the Breffni men from 1999 to 2001, when they last reached an Ulster final. Dubliner Andrews has since managed Louth and Ballymun Kickhams.

Why they're there: Tommy Carr ended a troubled two years in Cavan. They finished two points from the promotion places in a competitive Division 3, but fell at home to Fermanagh in Ulster before producing a brilliant comeback against Wicklow. The less said about the visit to Cork for the qualifiers, the better.

What they'll bring: The pair weren't opposed by club delegates on their ratification, when chairman Tom Reilly spoke of a "fresh approach backboned by consultation with clubs".

What makes a good year: Carr waged war against what he saw as the unrealistic expectation in the county, but after Andrews and Hyland were given a three-year term, 2011 is one for rebuilding.

Fermanagh

Manager profile: Lisnaskea Emmetts clubman John O'Neill was part of Charlie Mulgrew's back-room team in 2005 and he played for the Erne men at senior level.

Why he's there: Fermanagh beat Cavan in the championship for the first time in 96 years before they had their hopes ended by two other Ulster sides -- Monaghan and Armagh, prompting Malachy O'Rourke to step down.

What he'll bring: After stints in charge of underage county sides, he's well aware of what talent is available and he has drafted a host of new faces for the McKenna Cup campaign.

What makes a good year: As the only Ulster county playing Division 4 football in 2011, it would look like a difficult assignment for the Erne men to make an impact in the championship, though league promotion is within their grasp.

Meath

Manager profile: Seamus 'Banty' McEnaney finally got the job after much soul-searching in Meath. Enjoyed six years with Monaghan, where he brought them to a brace of Ulster finals and to the top flight in the league.

Why he's there: Meath clubs surprisingly turned on Eamonn O'Brien as the shockwaves from the tarnished Leinster final win continued, opening the door for the Monaghan man.

What he'll bring: An excellent back-room team including the much-heralded pair of Paul Grimley and Martin McElkennon, while former Meath star Liam Harnan is also on board.

What makes a good year: Leinster looks particularly competitive and retaining the title would be a reasonable achievement, but Meath will expect to be in action well into August.

Laois

Manager profile: Justin McNulty isn't a complete newcomer to inter-county management, having served as a selector under Paddy O'Rourke in Armagh last year.

Why he's there: Sean Dempsey couldn't get the best from Laois and despite taking Meath to a replay, they found Tipperary too hot to handle in the back door.

What he'll bring: A no-nonsense approach -- McNulty has already gone on record as saying that the current bunch of Laois players have underachieved.

What makes a good year: Leinster is wide open but they find themselves on the same side of the draw as Dublin, Meath and Kildare. Division 2 is also strong looking, but a scalp or two would be very welcome.

Limerick

Manager profile: Maurice Horan has played for both Mayo and Limerick and managed the Treaty County's Under-21 side last year while also serving as a selector under Mickey Ned O'Sullivan.

Why he's there: Mickey Ned stepped down after five seasons in charge, feeling he had brought the team as far as he could. In that period, Limerick deserved at least one Munster title but fell short in the final on a couple of occasions.

What he'll bring: Continuity to a side that came desperately close to provincial honours. He has also drafted in Ephie Fitzgerald, who managed Nemo Rangers to four straight Cork SFC titles between 2005 and '08, and to two Munster club titles during the same period.

What makes a good year: Limerick are at home to the winners of Kerry and Tipperary in the championship, and after last year's Munster final performance, they won't fear the Kingdom should they come through as expected.

Galway

Manager profile: Kerryman Tomas O Flatharta fills the seat surprisingly vacated by Joe Kernan.

Why he's there: Former Armagh boss Kernan and Galway couldn't come to an agreement on his back-room team for 2011 and the Armagh man stepped down after just a year in charge.

What he'll bring: Played a huge role in Westmeath's breakthrough Leinster triumph in 2004 under Paidi O Se and subsequently brought the midlanders to top-flight league football when beating Dublin in a Division 2 decider.

What makes a good year: It's straight into the action for O Flatharta, whose new charges will most likely face Mayo in Castlebar in their Conncaht SFC opener provided their great rivals and near-neighbours avoid a slip-up in London.

Mayo

Manager profile: James Horan beat off some fierce competition for the Mayo hot seat. Guiding Ballintubber to their first county title did his cause no harm at all.

Why he's there: John O'Mahony's term in charge didn't work out in the latter end and last year's defeat to Sligo and listless performance against Longford were unforgivable. A league final appearance was a bonus, but that finished in disaster too.

What he'll bring: As a player he earned huge respect, winning two All Stars and appearing in All-Ireland finals. Optimistic Mayo people have pointed to the fact that he's the first former forward to be handed the role since Gerald Courell and Jackie Carney brought All-Irelands to the county in 1950 and '51.

What makes a good year: Like O Flatharta, his side's performance against Galway is the initial yardstick he'll be measured by. If and when they take the back door, they'll be expected to show more appetite.

Irish Independent

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