Monday 20 November 2017

Prospects vary for chosen few

Colm Collins, Clare
Colm Collins, Clare

Damian Lawlor takes a look at what lies ahead for the 10 new football managers

Pat Flanagan (Sligo)

SLIGO went 149 days without a senior football manager and when they did announce a replacement for Kevin Walsh, the county board caused something of a shock. Flanagan had vacated the Westmeath position at the end of the summer and brought a good record to the table, but he was on very few lists of contenders. Flanagan's arrival makes sense, though. He took Westmeath from Division 3 to Division 1 in three years, and won county championships with Tyrellspass and Clara.

He is a genuine manager who had plenty of challenges to deal with as Westmeath boss and he now comes into a Sligo set-up that is equally complex. The team has slipped down the ladder in a big way -- losing to London was possibly the final straw. They are also carrying a €1.5m debt and have been in negotiations with the GAA's top brass to help deal with that burden. Flanagan will have to operate on a shoestring budget.

Brian Cuthbert (Cork)

In six years Conor Counihan won three successive league titles and three Munster crowns, as well as the 2010 All-Ireland title. But with Pearse O'Neill, Graham Canty, Alan O'Connor, Alan Quirke, Paudie Kissane and Noel O'Leary all retired, and with Ciarán Sheehan having joined AFL side Carlton, Cork are now without seven of last year's team.

While Cork's supporters will still expect to beat Kerry if and when they meet in next year's Munster championship, the fact that Cuthbert has lost so many players -- and will see Aidan Walsh and Eoin Cadogan return to play hurling as well as football -- has taken some of the weight of expectation off his shoulders. Cuthbert had a huge job on his hands to pip John Cleary for the post. Now the real work starts.

Colm Collins (Clare)

aTt the start of July, Mick O'Dwyer told the Clare county board he would not be staying on. They finished mid-table in Division 4 and lost both their championship games. However, there is a bit of a buzz around Collins' appointment.

He was the outstanding candidate. He is the father of Clare hurlers Podge and Seán, and has served as county under 21 boss in the past. Eight of Clare's All-Ireland-winning hurling team -- the two Collins brothers, Conor McGrath, Conor Ryan, Liam Markham, Brendan Bugler, Fergal Lynch and Cathal McInerney -- were part of his Cratloe team that reached the Munster SFC final and pushed Dr Crokes to the limit.

Podge Collins, in particular, is a fine footballer and it's no surprise that his father has already been in contact with Davy Fitzgerald about the prospect of some players playing in both codes next year. Hopefully they can come to an agreement but it will be easier said than done.

Pete McGrath (Fermanagh)

THE talk was that Kevin McStay was in line for this job, but surprisingly it went to McGrath. In total, 14 candidates were approached and four were interviewed before McGrath got the gig. His last high-profile job was with the Down minors, while his greatest triumph remains leading Down to All-Ireland glory in 1991 and 1994. This will be a real test of his knowhow.

Jason Ryan (Kildare)

Ryan comes into a pretty raw camp given the manner of Kieran McGeeney's departure. A number of the panel called for McGeeney's reinstatement after the controversial county board vote, so Ryan's subsequent appointment was perhaps the only one that would have soothed the players. He is a tactically savy, an excellent organiser and hard-working. Nothing will be left to chance and the Kildare players are lucky to have him.

Tomás ó Flatharta (Laois)

Laois have potential; they reached the quarter-finals of the 2012 championship and earned promotion from Division 2 the year before. ó Flatharta has plenty of experience and he will need all of it if the midlands side are to achieve their full potential.

Jack Sheedy (Longford)

Glenn Ryan stepped down as Longford manager after their extra-time qualifier defeat to Wexford which came on the back of a timid loss away to Wicklow in the provincial championship. During his five years in charge, Ryan achieved back-to-back league promotions and now the torch has been passed to former Dublin star Sheedy, who will also look after the under 21s.

Sheedy has no inter-county managerial experience but had a very good spell with Edenderry, while three years ago he led Moorefield to the Kildare senior football title. He has a readymade target as Longford meet Offaly in a tasty Leinster opener next year.

John Brudair (Limerick)

Another position that was highly sought-after was the Limerick job where it was expected Tom McGlinchey would make the step-up after Maurice Horan stepped down.

Limerick were beaten by Longford in the qualifiers and lost heavily to Cork in Munster so it was maybe a surprise that so many people were interested in the gig. Brudair wasted no time in getting started and called in 60 players to trials from senior, intermediate and junior clubs. Those trials did not include the 20 players who Brudair and his team already consider as regulars. Their stated wish is to find 20 new players to join the squad.

Paul Bealin (Westmeath)

Another who has put in a huge effort since taking charge of Westmeath is Bealin, who was in charge of Wexford for the 2006 and 2007 campaigns and Carlow in 2008.

Bealin has kept busy at club level and most recently was in charge of Parnells in Dublin. He has had extensive club managerial experience with Ballyboden St Enda's, Cavan's Mullahoran and Kildare's Monasterevin. He takes over a team low on confidence. They bowed out of the Leinster championship with a heavy defeat against Dublin and then lost an All-Ireland qualifier against Fermanagh.

Seán Hagan (Leitrim)

THE late-night ratification of Hagan as the new Leitrim manager took some time to finalise and the Longford native has only been given a one-year term.

Judging by reports, there was a lack of unity in the county at times last year and the board interviewed seven candidates before moving to replace Barney Breen and George Dugdale with Hagan. The co-managers had led Leitrim to the 2013 FBD League title, only the fourth national or provincial trophy the county has ever won at senior level. The year before they had wins over London and Wicklow before a spirited defeat to Laois in the qualifiers.

This year, however, they were defeated by London in the Connacht semi-final before suffering an absolute annihilation -- 8-13 to 0-10 -- at the hands of Armagh in the qualifiers. Hagan has a tough job on his hands.

Irish Independent

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