Off The Ball: New regimes give everyone a chance to prove themselves
Published 06/01/2016 | 02:30
A host of new Gaelic football and hurling managers experienced their first days in the new job with the start of the inter-county season at the weekend. The large number is probably a reflection on how badly so many counties fared last season.
A new management is always exciting for players. It's a fresh start for lifer subs, while others with disciplinary problems under old management are brought back in from the cold to prove themselves...or mess up again.
Teachers' pets get a chance to be the new manager's favourite so everyone is trying a little bit harder.
Managers too want to put their own stamp on the group of players.
It was interesting to see Kevin McStay select Cathal Cregg at centre-back for their FBD win over Sligo. He also went with regular midfielder Cathal Shine at full-forward in what could be a change of tactics for the Roscommon team.
These positional changes don't always work but are worth a try. The best, or worst, example of this was Dublin hurling manager Ger Cunningham who became the GAA's version of the 'tinkerman' early last season. Michael Carton switched from wing-back to full-back, Peter Kelly from full-back to centre-back, Conal Keaney from the forwards to wing-back, Danny Sutcliffe from wing-forward to midfield, Eamon Dillon moved from regular sub to centre-forward and Liam Rushe from centre-back to full-forward.
By the time Dublin exited the championship, Carton had left the squad, Kelly was on the bench and Keaney, Sutcliffe and Rushe were back in their regular positions under Anthony Daly.
Generally managers are able to identify a player's best position. In my experience, even the poor ones could do that, so dramatic positional changes can often be a waste of time.
What new managers need to do is figure out a style of play that suits their new squad and then coach them exactly how to fit into that style.
Players will respond to the new direction but will quickly figure out, similar to a substitute teacher in school, whether they have a good one or a chancer.