Wise old heads back in fashion for GAA counties
Counties siding with experience over youth as wheel turns full circle
The last three All-Ireland football titles have been won by managers with an average age of 40, but the expected trend towards a younger stewardship of inter-county teams has not materialised.
The success of the 39-year-old Pat Gilroy with Dublin in 2011 and 39-year-old Jim McGuinness with Donegal in 2012 appeared to point to a new breed of manager, a strong personality in touch with the modern game and modern methods with fresh thinking and ideas.
It was no surprise then that Kerry opted for Eamonn Fitzmaurice (36), Meath appointed Mick O'Dowd (38), Aidan O'Rourke (36) took over the reins in Louth, while in Offaly Emmet McDonnell (33) became the youngest of the genre in the wake of the 2012 championship, swelling the numbers of 30-something managers to seven at the beginning of last season.
But the onset of more managers with their own playing days not too far behind them has not surfaced as may have been expected.
In recent weeks and months what was developing into a young man's game has become more of a middle-aged spread.
Pat Flanagan's appointment as Sligo manager on Monday night has completed the managerial jigsaw for 2014 and points to a commitment to experience in a majority of cases.
Of the 11 vacancies filled since the summer only two were managers in their 30s. Jason Ryan's elevation to the primary role in Kildare came at the age of 37, six years on from his appointment at Wexford.
New Cork boss Brian Cuthbert was the Rebels' All-Ireland-winning minor captain in 1993 and is now 38. Ryan and Cuthbert keep the number of sub-40 managers to seven after the departure of Maurice Horan from Limerick and Justin McNulty from Laois.
But the greatest concentration of new managers comes from the 50-to-54 age bracket.
Five of the 11 newcomers -- Longford's Jack Sheedy (51), Antrim's Liam Bradley (51), Sligo's Pat Flanagan (52), Clare's Colm Collins (52) and Laois' Tomas O Flatharta (53) -- have doubled the numbers between the age of 50 and 55, making up just under one third of all 2014 football managers (excluding New York).
The next greatest concentration of inter-county football managers comes from the 40-to-44 age bracket with McGuinness, Horan, Carlow's Anthony Rainbow, Jim Gavin, James McCartan, Tipperary's Peter Creedon and Limerick's John Brudair all in this group.
The average age of the 32 managers which will field teams in next year's football league is currently just under 47. In all there will be 13 managers aged 50 or over on the starting grid for 2013, the oldest being Peter McGrath (59), who returns to inter county management 22 years on from his delivery of a fourth All-Ireland title for Down at the age of 37.
McGrath is joined on the 59 mark by Derry's Brian McIver with Tyrone's Mickey Harte, now the longest serving manager in the game as he prepares for a 13th season in charge, tucked in just behind them.
The closest in terms of years of service to a county after Harte, following the respective departures of Kieran McGeeney from Kildare and Conor Counihan from Cork, is now McCartan, heading for a fifth year with Down.
The next greatest concentration of inter-county football managers stems from the 40 to 44 age bracket with McGuinness, Horan, Carlow's Anthony Rainbow, Gavin, McCartan, Tipperary's Peter Creedon and Limerick's John Brudair all in this bracket.
Significantly, six of the 11 appointed bosses have previously managed a county. O Flatharta was with Westmeath and Galway; Flanagan was with Westmeath; Paul Bealin was with Wexford and Carlow; Bradley was four years with Antrim; Ryan was five years with Wexford, while McGrath was 13 years with Down.