Published 23/02/2012 | 05:00
IT'S one of the biggest turnovers in hurling history and it's coming your way this weekend when no fewer than nine of the 12 counties in Division 1 begin the Allianz League under new management.
Only Kilkenny (Brian Cody), Tipperary (Declan Ryan) and Dublin (Anthony Daly) remain from last year as the rest look to new leaders to steer them towards their own particular ambitions.
Remarkably, all six counties in Division 1B have new bosses, while in Division 1A Cork, Galway and Waterford have changed regimes.
It's back to the future for Cork, who return to Jimmy Barry-Murphy 16 years after his first appointment. Three fellow Corkmen -- John Allen (Limerick), Teddy McCarthy (Laois) and Jerry Wallace (Antrim) -- are also taking up new positions.
Clare have three managers in Division 1 -- Davy Fitzgerald (Clare), Anthony Daly (Dublin) and Ollie Baker (Offaly).
Cody, Ryan and Daly, who shared all of the big national and provincial prizes between them last year, will now be scanning the horizon for early warning signs that some of the new managers are planning major ambushes this season.
The newcomers and the challenges they face are:
Few thought he would be back as Cork manager when he left in 2000, having presided over a period when Cork ended a nine-year wait for the All-Ireland title in 1999.
However, his name usually came up when a vacancy arose as he has always remained an admired and respected figure among Cork players and public alike.
It will be fascinating to see how his second term goes. He will be given as much time as is required to restore Cork as real All-Ireland contenders and, if the material is in the county, JBM will get the best from it.
When Waterford decided to return to 'home rule' after being managed by outsiders since the mid-1990s, Ryan was an obvious choice. Vastly experienced at club level, he also worked with Waterford under Justin McCarthy in 2007, having earlier been successful with Waterford ladies football teams.
Waterford have been a top-four side (No 3 on quite a few occasions) for several seasons, so he will be under pressure to build on that. Easier said than done, but he has to be given time and space to leave his own imprint.
Once he completes his duties with Garrycastle in the All-Ireland Club Championship football final, his entire focus will be on Galway and the quest to end the 24-year wait for an All-Ireland title.
All Galway managers are judged on whether they secure a visit from Liam MacCarthy, but since it's seven years since they last reached an All-Ireland semi-final, it's clear that a major overhaul is required.
Did anybody ever think they would see the day when Wexford were 200/1 to win the All-Ireland title?
That's the challenging environment in which Dunne finds himself as he steps up to county management for the first time, having done well with Oulart-The Ballagh in recent years.
There are no quick-fix answers in Wexford, so Dunne will be given time to rebuild. Sustained patience -- from him, the county board and the supporters -- will be required in these trying times for the county.
Offaly hurling has a long history of looking beyond its borders for managers although Baker, a Garda sergeant based in Tullamore, can scarcely be termed an outsider.
Baker is an interesting appointment, bringing with him the legacy of an outstanding playing career, prior to serving as a selector in Westmeath and in his native Clare during Mike McNamara's management. He was involved with Antrim in a coaching capacity last year.
He becomes the fifth Laois manager since 2005, following Dinny Cahill, Damien Fox, Niall Rigney, Brendan Fennelly.
That's quite a turnover, with only Rigney, who took over when Fox quit during the 2008 championship due to player apathy, bringing any degree of stability to the volatile scene.
McCarthy, an All-Ireland hurling and football winner with Cork in 1990, is taking charge of a county team for the first time, but served as an U-21 selector with Cork.
Allen certainly brings lots of experience and is taking over in Limerick at a time when their confidence is rising rapidly.
There was disappointment in Limerick when O'Grady didn't stay beyond one year, but based on the Cork experience with Allen in 2005, the transition should be fairly seamless.
Allen is Limerick's eighth manager in 10 years, underlining the unsettled atmosphere that has been evident within the county.
They will now be hoping that Allen will not only bring stability, but restore them as genuine title contenders.
Wherever he wandered or whatever he won, it was always only a matter of time before Davy Fitz managed the Banner.
He arrives with an invaluable portfolio of experience, gained over four seasons with Waterford (the first in 2008 began in mid-summer after the player-heave against Justin McCarthy).
He did well with Waterford, but this is an even bigger test as his big ambition is to chart Clare's return to the peaks of the 1990s.
It will be the tallest of orders as they don't have anything like the playing resources of that wonderful period. Without any championship win since 2008, Clare need inspiration and will get it from their little general.
Anybody who is prepared to commute all the way from Cork to Antrim to manage a team is taking commitment to incredible levels, but, according to Wallace, it's no big deal.
Well, actually it is, but if he is going to bring that level of enthusiasm to his new position, then there will hardly be any complaints from the Antrim players if he pushes them to the limit.
Wallace has plenty of big-time experience, having worked with Donal O'Grady in Cork and Limerick and also knows the Antrim scene well, having been involved during Dinny Cahill's reign a few seasons ago.