Friday 24 November 2017

O'Dowd allies tick right Royal boxes

Meath's new football boss Mick O'Dowd (right) back in his playing days helping Skyrne to county final glory in 2004
Meath's new football boss Mick O'Dowd (right) back in his playing days helping Skyrne to county final glory in 2004
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Given the volatile nature of some of the more recent votes in relation to the position in Meath, Mick O'Dowd won't be introducing himself as new senior team manager just yet.

Twice in the last three attempts, Meath's management committee have floundered when it came to convincing their delegates to back their particular proposals, the Eamonn O'Brien ratification for a third year in 2010 and the Seamus McEnaney vote of no confidence last April. The only vote of the three that succeeded was the appointment of McEnaney and even that had opposition, with a 53-19 split.

This time, however, there won't be much, if any, dissension against the decision to recommend O'Dowd. The trauma associated with the more recent appointments is most unlikely to surface, regardless of his inexperienced profile.

His success in steering Skryne to the 2004 county title as player-manager apart, his involvement in management has been quite limited

Paddy Carr had the experience, Graham Geraghty the status, as an All-Ireland winning captain, and Colm O'Rourke the gravitas, but not the right conditions. However, it was the least known of the quartet who presented themselves for interview last week that clearly ticked more boxes.

Despite it appearing something of a surprise appointment, it is entirely in keeping with the national trend of appointing managers not too far either side of 40. And given the success of Jim McGuinness and Pat Gilroy and Eamonn Fitzmaurice's appointment in Kerry, maybe it was a road Meath felt they needed to travel.

Carr will be most disappointed, having sought the job initially in late 2006 when Colm Coyle was eventually appointed. His involvement with Kilmacud Crokes only developed after that and by 2009 he was an All-Ireland winning manager with the powerful southside Dublin club, before following up with further Dublin and Leinster titles. He is currently the manager of Tir Chonaill Gaels, who last week qualified to play Kingdom Kerry Gaels in the London SFC final.

His coaching experience stretches back to Louth in 2002 and, as it became apparent that O'Rourke wasn't really committed to making himself available, Carr looked the natural choice.

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But, evidently, they were more interested in a management team than a manager and the back-room team O'Dowd assembled were among the best 'home grown' personnel the county board could have hoped for.

Trevor Giles was always a likely ally, having got involved with McEnaney for the championship in a coaching capacity. He may even have been the catalyst for O'Dowd to seek the job in the first place, knowing how his logistical and managerial acumen, developed through a career in recruitment and banking, would complement the skills of the other members of the team if they could get it together. But O'Dowd's work in convincing Sean Kelly to come on board really gave his prospects impetus.

Kelly, who was close to accepting the Louth job in 2008 and joint-managed Navan O'Mahony's to the Meath senior title that year, started out as 3/1 favourite for the position in the days after McEnaney stepped down, but quickly removed himself from the race.

The responsibility of being the 'front of house' man in such a large operation may not have appealed all that much to him, but as coach and selector he will be much more comfortable.

Another former player, Colm Brady, completes the ticket as the strength and conditioning coach, a role he held under Sean Boylan in 2003 and again under Eamonn O'Brien in 2009.

O'Dowd was a Sigerson Cup medal-winner with UCD in 1996, a team that also featured his new selector and good friend Giles, Tyrone's Brian Dooher and Offaly's Ciaran McManus.

A skilful left-footer, who won four championship medals with his club Skryne, his time as an inter-county player was limited.

He was a member of the Meath squad that lost the 2001 All-Ireland final to Galway, briefly featuring at the end of the landslide semi-final win over Kerry, which marked the end of the Maurice Fitzgerald's career.

In a separate development, Sean Barry, who was joint manager with Kelly when O'Mahony's won that 2008 title, will be proposed for the position of U-21 manager on Monday night. He is currently manager of Simonstown Gaels.

Irish Independent

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