Saturday 3 December 2016

Player's perspective: When seasons go south the first thing to change is the manager

Michael Verney

Published 21/11/2015 | 02:30

'While Mick O’Dwyer and Brian Cody (pictured) can infinitely wave their magic wand on the sideline, inside the white lines you have an expiry date'
'While Mick O’Dwyer and Brian Cody (pictured) can infinitely wave their magic wand on the sideline, inside the white lines you have an expiry date'

The season is over but the hurt of defeat is fresh on the mind. All the training, all the sacrifices but you're not doing yourself justice. Or, to be more precise, you don't think justice is being done to you.

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A player's shelf-life is not like a manager's. While Mick O'Dwyer and Brian Cody can infinitely wave their magic wand on the sideline, inside the white lines you have an expiry date.

Players have only one career, managers can have several. And you never know when you'll become surplus to requirements. You must make hay while the sun shines.

Time is the greatest trigger for a player-heave as remarks passed among players and whispers of other teams' methods add fuel to the fear of losing ground in the GAA race.

It's almost like Lance Armstrong syndrome. You're convinced your closest rivals are revolutionising the game and radical steps are needed or you'll fall behind the peloton.

The first person to go is the manager. Mirrors rarely reflect on players. Ad hoc meetings are summoned by 'senior' panel members. Senior, in this case, means the drivers of the side.

The on-field leaders, the ones who demand high standards in all aspects of preparation. Those who stand up in the face of adversity. Age is irrelevant, everyone knows their identity.

The panel's fence-sitters and politicians, unwilling to put their neck on the line, will spout the usual bulls*** like 'they deserve another year' and 'they'll learn from mistakes'.

Your manager has become the brunt of an ongoing WhatsApp group joke but some cannot remove the blinkers. If they were good enough, a year would suffice to show that.

For this reason, meetings will often be organised behind some players' backs with 'logistics' meaning not everyone is contacted while the like-minded core group plough on trying to pull off a coup. You attend games, you drool over what others are doing.

Exaggerated comparisons are made with what you've done this season. 'Why can't we have someone like that?' 'Our management wouldn't be capable of that.' 'If we could just win one that could snowball, but they're just not up to it.'

Negative

Every negative aspect of your set-up is multiplied. GAA players want to know that they've worked hard and training drills aren't cutting the mustard. Players can control training intensity to some extent, other aspects are out of their grasp.

Players don't want bluffers and brevity is key. They are not idiots and when managers make promises of professionalism, they want to see such guarantees enforced.

Introduction of new, radical, game-breaking tactics the week of a crunch game just won't wash with the modern player. What exactly have you been doing for the past nine months? Was there ever a masterplan?

But more than anything else, players demand the correct team selection. Faith in managerial competence is paramount. The right decisions must be made at the right times during championship battle.

Such a player revolt might be breaking rank, upsetting the old guard but while many might see them putting a lot on the line, their careers are on that same line.

Votes are taken with younger guys easily swayed. They're voting on something proposed by guys they grew up admiring, rocking the boat isn't an option. The emotion and heart that those heroes have shown on the field also moves mountains behind closed doors.

Possible lists of successors are raised but usually a name, and initial contact, has already been made. Officials and the manager are quickly informed and the reality of what is happening hits home.

Bumping into locals at Christmas will bring unwanted attention. 'The players are running the show' and 'contact player X, sure he's picking the new manager', will regularly be overheard.

You even run the risk of being regarded as 'hard to handle' but in general the real supporters are no mugs. They sense incompetence and they back you. GAA folk love finding fault in others, enjoy a good stir and want to see them prosper.

But now is the time for the hard yards to be ran and the players to truly rise. With heads on the chopping block, the pressure is high just to stay alive because the heat is on.

• Michael Verney is a club hurler in Offaly

Irish Independent

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