Friday 28 July 2017

Davy Fitzgerald the main mover in winter of change

Davy's switch from Clare to Wexford was one of six changes among the 12 Division 1 counties

Davy Fitzgerald will take charge in a Leinster SHC game for the first time this year with Wexford. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Davy Fitzgerald will take charge in a Leinster SHC game for the first time this year with Wexford. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Colm Bonnar. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Football's managerial carousel may have moved slower than usual during the closed season, but it gathered considerable pace in hurling where half of the counties in Division 1 changed leadership.

That did not include the four All-Ireland favourites but there was lots of movement elsewhere, with Clare, Limerick, Wexford, Offaly, Laois and Kerry all heading into the new season under new bosses.

Davy Fitzgerald (Clare to Wexford) and Eamonn Kelly (Offaly to Laois) merely switched counties, while there will be first-timers in Clare, Limerick and Kerry as Donal Moloney/Gerry O'Connor, John Kiely and Fintan O'Connor test themselves at the highest level.

Clare

Donal Moloney and Gerry O'Connor take over from Davy Fitzgerald, who ended his five-year reign in September. Despite several high-profile names being linked to the attractive position, the apparent logic of appointing the pair who steered Clare to an All-Ireland U-21 three-in-a-row won out.

They start from a strong position, with Clare the reigning Allianz League champions and blessed with a deep talent pool, many of whom were aboard as youngsters in the All-Ireland senior success in 2013.

Donal Og Cusack, who was brought in as part of the coaching ticket last year, will continue this season.

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Cork

Kieran Kingston heads into his second year after a disappointing 2016, during which Cork won only two of nine League and Championship games.

Coach Frank Flannery departed after last year's Championship and will be replaced by Pat Ryan, who continues as a selector with Kingston, Diarmuid O'Sullivan and Pat Hartnett.

Limerick

As with Clare, Limerick have turned to a successful U-21 manager in John Kiely, who presided over the 2015 All-Ireland success.

He has been appointed on a three-year term and will have Paul Kinnerk, who did such good work with Clare, Joe O'Connor, Jimmy Quilty and Brian Geary as his main co-strategists.

Tipperary

All-Ireland winning managers rarely walk away and having worked so hard, first as a selector in Liam Sheedy's and Eamon O'Shea's regimes and as top man last year, Michael Ryan was always going to stay around to plot Tipperary's attempt to retain the All-Ireland title for the first time since 1965.

He will do with lots of confidence after last year's sweet success.

Waterford

Derek McGrath continues into his fourth year as manager and will be backed up by Dan Shanahan and Philip Murphy, who replaces Fintan O'Connor, the new Kerry boss.

Other than Kilkenny, the ultimate one-leader state under Brian Cody, Waterford have had the fewest managers (five) of the top hurling counties since the turn of the Millennium (Gerald McCarthy, Justin McCarthy, Davy Fitzgerald, Michael Ryan, McGrath).

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Kerry

Fintan O'Connor, a Waterford selector in recent seasons, takes over from Ciarán Carey, who resigned after one year.

It was a successful season too as Kerry defied the odds by retaining a place in Division 1B and in the Leinster round-robin. O'Connor becomes Kerry's third manager in three successive seasons.

Galway

Micheal Donoghue heads into his second year with selectors Francis Forde and Noel Larkin.

Galway are out of the top League flight for the first time in many years and, while it's not where they want to be, it will give the management a chance to experiment at a rate that might not be possible in 1A.

Kilkenny

Brian Cody is in his 19th season and will again have Michael Dempsey, Derek Lyng and James McGarry as his first lieutenants.

Dublin

Ger Cunningham begins his third year at a time when the true depth of Dublin's talent pool will be tested. A combination of injuries and Cuala's pursuit of All-Ireland club glory will leave Dublin severely depleted in the League.

Wexford

Davy Fitzgerald's appointment as manager was one of the most interesting - in hurling or football - in the close season.

It probably would not have happened if there hadn't been rumblings of discontent from some corners of the Clare dressing-room. But once he became available, Wexford moved in quickly, hoping that he can have the same positive impact on them as he had on Waterford and Clare.

Keith Rossiter, JJ Doyle, PJ Ryan (former Kilkenny goalkeeper), Seoirse Bulfin and Páraic Fanning will be among Fitzgerald's main supports.

Offaly

Kevin Ryan, who previously managed Antrim and Carlow, steps into the job vacated by Eamonn Kelly, who left after one season. Johnny Dooley and Gary Cahill, as well as Waterford's Paul Flynn, will be among the well-known names working with Ryan in what will be a tough job in a county which has dropped well down the ranking order.

Laois

Eamonn Kelly finds himself in the unusual position of managing a third county in three seasons, having been with Kerry in 2015 and Offaly last year.

The Tipperary man left Offaly after what he described as "a difficult season" but obviously hadn't lost his passion for management as he agreed to re-launch with Laois, following the departure of 'Cheddar' Plunkett.

Kelly will have former stars Ollie Moran (Limerick) and Conor Gleeson (Tipperary) on his coaching team.

Westmeath

Michael Ryan continues into his third year, assisted by Michael Walsh, while Tom Carr will again be in charge of strength and conditioning.

Carlow

Former Tipperary All-Ireland winner Colm Bonnar takes over from Pat English. Bonnar has vast managerial experience with Wexford and WIT, having also served as a Waterford selector.

Carlow dropped out of the Liam MacCarthy Cup tier at the end of last season and are now among the favourites for the Christy Ring Cup.

Meath

Martin Ennis is heading into his third year in what is an exciting time for Royal County hurling after winning the Christy Ring Cup last year. It earned Meath promotion to the Leinster Championship round-robin, where they will play Kerry, Westmeath and Laois.

Antrim

'Sambo' McNaughton, Dominic McKinley, Gary O'Kane and Neal Peden will be in charge this year, having stepped in when PJ O' Mullan resigned midway through his first season last year. They have the experience to help Antrim regain stability.

Irish Independent

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