Monday 18 December 2017

Mercury rising for bosses

As league hots up, pressure gauge puts managers under the spotlight


Whether remunerated in some form or not, the pressure on any inter-county manager will always remain the same, all that ever changes is the amount of it.

In Thurles on Sunday, that very pressure manifested itself in a sideline altercation between hurling's most successful managers of the last two seasons, Kilkenny's Brian Cody and Tipperary's Liam Sheedy.

Whatever the motives behind what transpired, words, finger pointing and then a shove from Sheedy -- it underlined perfectly how absorbed managers can become, how unwilling they are to show a weakness to each other.

Ultimately, the buck stops with them and that's the way they like it.

After three rounds of the NFL, just short of the halfway point, clear patterns are emerging in all of the divisions throwing up some unlikely scenarios, Dublin and Tyrone bookending Division 1 in different ways, Kerry and Galway grasping for air in between.

Lower down, Westmeath are edging towards the trapdoor again with Laois not far behind them.

James McCartan and Paddy O'Rourke however are revelling in their new roles in Down and Armagh.

We look at the managers who are under the cosh already, those who have found some relief for the time being and others who, so far, are insulated from it.

Four managers feeling the heat

Mickey Harte (Tyrone)

The old dog for the hard road has been down this track before at the foot of Division 1 and has come through unscathed. After defeat in Inniskeen on Sunday, he was sure his team could still play enough good football to survive. Still it's not where he'd want to be given his overriding policy to win 'anytime, anywhere.' Their next game against Cork is a 'must win.' They retained a decent record in Division 1 under Harte's stewardship that's worth fighting for but he has tough calls to make on some long-serving players.

Pressure gauge: medium.

Sean Dempsey (Laois)

He hasn't had the start to the league that he needed, despite a first-round success against Tipperary, so the carryover from last year has risen more dust.

A slight improvement against Armagh over the weekend -- they lost by just a point -- won't hide the fact that the locals have lost faith in them as few bothered to show up in O'Moore Park on Saturday night.

Still there's a potential pathway to survival over the next two weekends on the road to Westmeath and Meath.

Pressure gauge: High.

Tommy Carr (Cavan)

Much of the heat Tommy will now be feeling is the residue from last summer when attempts were made to remove him. He got his league campaign off to a grand start with a big win over Roscommon but that result looks like it's in isolation now. Defeats to Antrim and Louth, allied to three McKenna Cup reversals in January, don't bode well even if Roscommon are still below them.

Pressure gauge: Starting to soar again.

Brendan Hackett (Westmeath)

It is perhaps too soon to suggest that a manager with just three league games under his belt and without his two best forwards is under the cosh.

But even in light of last Saturday night's more promising show against Meath -- Westmeath probably should have won -- they are spiralling towards another drop to a lower division.

Pressure gauge: Medium.

Four with the pressure relieved

Jack O'Connor (Kerry)

Given his record -- three All-Ireland titles and three leagues from four years -- O'Connor should have an armchair ride for the year. On top of that, he's lost so many key players.

But this is Kerry and in Kerry you're more often than not only as good as your last game.

So O'Connor, whose league record is quite exemplary, will be relieved to have two points knowing that difficult days lie ahead in Galway and Tyrone.

Pressure gauge: Always steady and high.

Seamus McEnaney (Monaghan)

McEnaney wasn't buying the notion that last Sunday was a seasonal cliffhanger but, had they lost to Tyrone, their grip on the cliff's edge would have weakened considerably.

The victory will certainly help to steel the mindset going to Parnell Park on Saturday night, a place where they have gone to and won before in recent seasons.

Pressure gauge: Significantly eased.

Jason Ryan (Wexford)

When Wexford lost to Louth in their opening league match, the thought must have crossed Jason Ryan's mind that the 'annus horribilis' of 2009 was ready to extend to 2010.

But wins over Offaly and Sligo, two of the division's more competitive teams, has completely changed the landscape and lifted them away from the clutches of relegation.

Pressure gauge: Moderating.

Pat Gilroy (Dublin)

When does a Dublin manager not feel it? Gilroy knows that but this week at least he can look back on the first 10 weeks of 2010 and say 'so far so good.' Dublin haven't topped Division 1 of the league after three rounds in recent memory.

They're playing to a clearly defined system that has defence and more defence as its hallmark and, despite injuries to up to 14 players, the cover has been good.

Pressure gauge: At its lowest levels for some time but that won't last long.

Four currently enjoying some space

Conor Counihan (Cork)

Three games, three wins. Counihan can't ask for much more than that, his only concern being that they haven't being putting teams away. The year in its entirety will brings its own pressure but right now Counihan will feel somewhat insulated in the short term.

Pressure gauge: Low.

Liam Bradley (Antrim)

St Gall's in an All-Ireland club final, The county seniors on top of Division 3. Antrim football is in a good place right now, comfortable in the knowledge that last year's heroics were part of a journey not a destination.

They've reeled off three league wins without input from their club champions and Bradley has retained impressive control of the squad.

Pressure gauge: Not a pound or a pascal in sight.

James McCartan (Down)

Okay, only managing to draw at home with a Tipperary team that had already lost its opening two games doesn't represent good business but Down head a competitive Division 2 with wins over Kildare and Meath and McCartan and his management team can take much credit for that.

Pressure gauge: Low.

Micheal McDermott (Clare)

The quiet-spoken Cavan man can do little wrong these days with his club Kilmurry-Ibrickane in next week's All-Ireland final and Clare reeling off three NFL Division 4 wins out of three. Heady days for the Banner.

Pressure gauge: Low.

Irish Independent

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