Thursday 26 April 2018

By order of management: two-thirds of this season's newcomers under early pressure

“It was one of those campaigns where maybe it was our destiny to go back to Division 2,” lamented Bonner Photo: Sportsfile
“It was one of those campaigns where maybe it was our destiny to go back to Division 2,” lamented Bonner Photo: Sportsfile

Martin Breheney

Two-thirds of this year's crop of new managers have had disappointing starts, greatly increasing the pressure as they begin formulating summer plans.

Declan Bonner, Pete McGrath, Paul McLoughlin and Damien McErlain saw their teams relegated, Stephen Wallace and Ronan McCarthy narrowly escaped the drop, while John Evans is still waiting for his first win with Wicklow.

Rory Gallagher and John Sugrue were the most successful in their new roles, steering Fermanagh (Division 3) and Laois (Division 4) to promotion. Here's how the 12 new football managers, plus three in hurling (Division 1) fared in the Allianz leagues.

Football

Declan Bonner (Donegal)

Not a lucky general, so far at least. Donegal lost their first two games by a point each against Kerry and Galway and were relegated after being caught by Kevin McLoughlin's point which drew Donegal's last game against Mayo. "It was one of those campaigns where maybe it was our destiny to go back to Division 2," lamented Bonner.

Ronan McCarthy (Cork) "It was our best performance of the league. We've come away from the game very positive and optimistic," said McCarthy after the defeat by Roscommon in the last round. It doesn't alter the fact that Cork finished sixth in Division 2, staying out of Division 3 on scoring difference ahead of Down.

Pete McGrath (Louth) A double All-Ireland winner with Down, he spent the last four years with Fermanagh before taking over in Louth in Division 2. Seven defeats by an average of 9.5 points per game leaves McGrath needing all his experience to lift the squad for the Leinster clash with Carlow.

Rory Gallagher (Fermanagh) Did Gallagher leave Donegal at the right time? They were relegated from Division 1, while Fermanagh were promoted to Division 2, giving him the ideal start.

Damian McErlain (Derry) He led Derry to the All-Ireland minor final last year but has found the step-up to senior level, at a time when Derry are weaker than for a long time, very tough. The slump had started long before this season so blaming McErlain would be unfair.

Cathal Corey (Sligo) Sligo completed their seventh successive season in Division 3 (finishing fifth) last month, leaving Corey in much the same position as his predecessors. Question is: can he move them on?

Colin Kelly (Westmeath) He will have breathed a sigh of relief as he watched Louth, who he led to promotion to Division 2 last year, drop back down with a shuddering thump. Kelly returned to Division 3 with Westmeath, taking them into fourth place. He will be disappointed not to have come closer to promotion after winning four of the first five games.

Stephen Wallace (Offaly) His first experience as a senior manager took him to a tense place when Offaly needed to beat Westmeath in the final round to avoid dropping into Division 4. Cue relief when they won and Derry lost to Sligo.

Paul McLoughlin (Wexford) The win over understrength Armagh in the last game was Wexford's only success as they dropped out of Division 3. "It gives us something to work off for the championship opener with Laois," said McLoughlin. On the basis of Wexford's first six games, they will need a lot more than that to boost severely depleted confidence.

John Sugrue (Laois) Division 4 is no place for Laois but it wasn't Sugrue's fault they dropped to the basement. However, it was his responsibility to plot a way back and the first target was duly delivered. So far, so good for the Kerryman.

John Evans (Wicklow) Wicklow ended the league at the bottom of Division 4, not exactly what Evans would have anticipated when he took over. He spoke at the time of the big challenge that lay ahead but it looks even greater now that no early bounce emerged.

Lenny Harbison (Antrim) Relegated counties are usually favourites to go straight back up but Antrim failed, losing out to Laois and Carlow. Harbison would have expected to mark his first season with promotion, but the loss to Carlow ended that ambition.

Hurling

John Meyler (Cork) Meyler started with a win over Kilkenny and ended with a win over Waterford (relegation play-off). The problem was in between when Cork lost to Clare, Wexford, Waterford and Tipperary. Despite that, the fundamentals are solid.

Pat Gilroy (Dublin) "We wanted to give as many as possible a reasonable shot at it and we did that," said Gilroy. Many of them won't be seen in a Dublin jersey again - not this year anyway - after a campaign where Dublin were well off the pace. The return of the Cuala contingent will provide acceleration. Gilroy now knows how big this challenge is.

Kevin Martin (Offaly) The first-round win over Dublin and running Kilkenny close in the quarter-final were plus points for Martin in his first season. He has re-established old Offaly values, which is a good base to work off.

Irish Independent

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