Friday 30 September 2016

O Flatharta departure leaves Laois in search of eighth manager since 2000

Published 25/06/2015 | 02:30

O Flatharta: Laois departure
O Flatharta: Laois departure

When Laois set about finding a replacement for departed manager Tomás Ó Flatharta, it will be the eighth time since 2000 that a similar process has been required.

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And since Mick O'Dwyer presided for four seasons and Justin McNulty for three, the high rate of attrition for Laois managers is apparent, if not explained.

Tom Cribbin, Colm Browne, Liam Kearns, Sean Dempsey and Ó Flatharta were in power for just two seasons each.

Cribbin exited after Laois were surprisingly beaten by Westmeath in the 2000 Leinster first round, while Browne's second term (he was previously in charge in the mid-1990s) ended in 2002 after an 11-point defeat by Meath.

Kearns left after losing to Wexford and Down in the 2008 championship; Dempsey's term ended with defeat by Tipperary in the 2010 qualifiers and now ó Flatharta has quit after defeats by Kildare and, more surprisingly, by Antrim in Portlaoise

Coming a year after Laois were eliminated from the championship - also in Portlaoise - by Tipperary, he had little prospects of survival, even if he wanted to stay on.

McNulty was in charge for three seasons, a prospect which seemed unlikely when Laois lost to Longford in the first round of the 2012 Leinster Championship. However, they recovered in the qualifiers, reaching the All-Ireland quarter-final, where they lost by a goal to Dublin.

It raised hopes for 2013 but, once again, Laois failed to survive the Leinster first round, beaten by 10 points by Louth. Another good qualifier run took Laois to Round 4, but McNulty later decided against seeking an extension, which probably would not have been granted anyway.

That leaves O'Dwyer as the only manager to make an impression in Laois, steering them to a first Leinster title in 57 years in 2003, as well as All-Ireland quarter-finals, via the qualifiers, in 2005 and 2006.

However, despite the remarkable turnaround in fortunes, his term in Laois had its tensions. Indeed, he admitted that the mood changed after the Leinster final replay defeat by Westmeath in 2004.

He stayed on for a further two seasons, he later regretted not getting out at the end of 2005.

Given the level to which he took Laois, it was surprising that they didn't always show as much faith in him as his record there - and elsewhere - deserved, but then there seems to be an inflated view of self-worth in the county.

The manager becomes the easy scapegoat, leading to a high turnover and a recurring cycle of two-year terms, broken only by O'Dwyer and McNulty in nearly 20 years.

It's a worrying trend that Laois need to address if they are not to fall further down the rankings.

Irish Independent

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