Monday 23 October 2017

Martin Breheny: Brian Cuthbert will have time on his side by the Lee

History suggests new Rebels football boss will be given every opportunity to deliver goods for

Brian Cuthbert is the new Cork senior football manager
Brian Cuthbert is the new Cork senior football manager
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

BRIAN Cuthbert may not be well known outside of Cork, but he has stepped into the most secure job in GAA management where, if events of the last quarter-century are anything to go by, he can expect a lengthy run as Rebels leader.

Remarkably, the 39-year-old Bishopstown-based school principal, will become only the fourth manager since 1987 to take charge of Cork footballers when he leads them into action next January. Billy Morgan, who had two separate stints, Larry Tompkins and Conor Counihan covered that entire period, leaving Cork with the lowest managerial turnover in the country.

Yet, while loyalty to their football managers (changes are more frequent in hurling) may be a Cork trait, they also hold the unfortunate distinction of appointing a boss who never got an opportunity to work with the players. This arose after a squad revolt against Teddy Holland, who was chosen to succeed Billy Morgan at the end of 2007. The players went on strike during a dispute over appointment procedures.

It led to an extended period of bitterness, during which Cork missed some early games in the 2008 Allianz League, before Holland was voted out by the County Board and replaced by Conor Counihan. The Board was left with little choice after it became clear that the whole of the '08 season would have been a wipeout if they insisted on leaving Holland in position.


Apart from that troubled period, Cork's support for their football managers is way ahead of their main rivals. Even Kerry, who have enjoyed much more success than Cork over the years, tend to be more active on the managerial merry-go-round since Mick O'Dwyer left after completing 15 seasons in 1989.

They have had six managers since then, with Jack O'Connor serving two separate terms, divided by Pat O'Shea's two-year stint in 2007-'08.

Morgan's appointment as Cork manager at the end of 1986 coincided with a period when the greatest Kerry team of all time were heading into decline. With Kildare imports, Tompkins and Shea Fahy, proving valuable acquisitions the balance of power swung sharply towards Cork.

By the time Morgan left 10 years later, Cork had won two All-Ireland and seven Munster titles. Tompkins succeeded Morgan, steering Cork to two Munster and one National League title during his seven years in charge, which ended with championship defeats by Limerick and Roscommon. Morgan returned for a further four seasons, but failed to replicate his first-term successes, winning just one Munster title.

Counihan, a unifying figure following the winter of discontent in 2007-08, won one All-Ireland and three Munster and three National League titles during his six years in charge.

Cuthbert, who served as a selector with Counihan this year, will be greatly encouraged by the longevity enjoyed by his predecessors, although he is starting against a background where there is a feeling in the county that it has under achieved over the last decade.

Traditionally, Cork's explanation for their relatively low All-Ireland yield was that they were unlucky to be in the same province as super-powers Kerry.

However, since the back door opened in 2001 – thereby giving Cork a second chance in seasons where they lost to Kerry in Munster – their All-Ireland yield is a miserly one. Even then, Cork were quite lucky to win the 2010 final against a Down team which have done nothing particularly special since then.


Cuthbert, who beat U-21 manager, John Cleary for the Cork job, will be pleased by the 2014 Allianz League fixtures, which hands his squad two home games (v Westmeath and Kildare) in the opening two rounds of the Division 1 campaign.

While Cork have shown most loyalty to its managers over the last 25 years, Galway emerge as the most volatile, having had no fewer than 10 bosses in that period. John O'Mahony was in charge for seven years, during which he led them to two All-Ireland wins, but no fewer than three managers, Val Daly (1997), Joe Kernan (2010) and Tomás ó Flatharta (2011) had only one season at the helm.

Mayo have had 11 managerial changes since 1986, but since John Maughan and John O'Mahony each had two stints in charge, it involved nine different personnel. Brian McDonald (1992), Anthony Egan (1995) and Mickey Moran (2006) served only one year each.

Dublin have had nine managers in the 1987-2013 period, with Gerry McCaul (1987-90), Tommy Carr (1998-2001), Paul Caffrey (2005-08) and Pat Gilroy (2009-12) the longest serving.

Donegal have been very volatile on the managerial front, having had no more fewer than 11 changes since 1986. Brian McEniff was at the helm on no fewer than four separate occasions in that period.

Meath were the essence of stability between 1983 and 2005 when Sean Boylan presided with real authority, but they have had five managers since his departure.

Kildare had a reputation for rapid-fire changes prior to Mick O'Dwyer's arrival in late 1990 for the start of a two separate stints, covering 10 years. Kieran McGeeney was in charge for the last six seasons before being recently replaced by Jason Ryan.

Despite that, Cork still hold the record for the least number of managers since Morgan made his mark in 1987. It's a comforting thought for Cuthbert as he begins his reign, but it remains to be seen if a more impatient approach is about to descend on Leeside in an era when the demand for success is increasing all the time.

Irish Independent

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