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Banty's numbers just don't add up

The Meath County Board executive, in particular chairman Barney Allen, have come in for plenty of media criticism after asking Seamus McEnaney to resign as manager, but they made the right decision.

McEnaney's record as Meath boss has been dire. It began with last year's National League when the Royals won just one game out of seven and avoided relegation to the third flight only because that victory gave them a head-to-head advantage over Sligo. He followed up by alienating his selectors Liam Harnan and Barry Callaghan to the extent that they resigned before a championship campaign which ended in mid-July and was bookended by a pair of defeats to Kildare.

This year, things are even worse. Meath will be playing Division 3 football next year after winning just two games out of seven, their schedule ending with a ten-point drubbing by Tyrone followed by a nine-point home defeat to Louth which sealed their fate. In all, McEnaney has taken charge of 18 competitive games and won just five of them. It's an abysmal record.

The manager's defenders have tried to excuse this record by pointing to Meath's recent lack of under-age success. But while this might explain why the Royals haven't been winning All-Irelands of late, it hardly explains a nine-point home defeat by Louth. Kildare, for that matter, haven't exactly been sweeping the boards at minor or under 21 level but that hasn't stopped Kieran McGeeney from turning them into a serious team.

Meath might not be the force they were ten or 20 years ago but in the four years before McEnaney's arrival they were good enough, under first Colm Coyle and then Eamonn O'Brien, to reach two All-Ireland semi-finals, win a Leinster title and score big Croke Park wins over excellent Tyrone, Dublin and Mayo teams. Both Tyrone and Dublin would go on to win All-Irelands the following year. Yet to hear the excuses being made on McEnaney's behalf, you'd swear it was Carlow he'd taken charge of.

There seems to be an idea out there that it's always wrong to sack a manager and that, no matter how badly things are going, the man in charge deserves 'more time'. But there are cases when county boards should be guided by the phrase, 'when you're in a hole, stop digging'. One year was more than long enough for Tomás ó Flatharta's disastrous reign with the Galway footballers who already look a much better team under Alan Mulholland.

You want to see what happens when a tender-hearted board lets a manager stay too long? Look at Denis Walsh's disastrous time in charge of the Cork hurlers which dragged on like some persistent nightmare until pundits were reduced to suggesting that the Rebels should be 'taking the positives' from comprehensive defeats by Galway. One change of manager later and Cork look like Cork again. A county team is not the Titanic. There's no point in keeping a stiff upper lip and going down with the ship if you don't have to.

The Meath Chronicle headline, '31-43 in Banty's Favour', said it all about the farcical way in which McEneaney kept his job. The board needed 66 per cent to shift him. They got 58 per cent so he is treating 42 per cent support as a mandate to continue. Had he any sense he'd accept the majority verdict. Instead his reaction to keeping the job has been to appoint John Evans to his management team, the implication being that a county full of All-Ireland winners needs the expertise of a failed Tipperary manager.

What's that sound coming from the Louth and Westmeath borders? Laughter, and plenty of it.

Sunday Indo Sport