Wednesday 17 January 2018

10 new GAA managements teams - who are they and what is expected of them?

The new guard: Cian O'Neill
The new guard: Cian O'Neill
Damian Barton
Peadar Healy
Kevin McStay
Mick Lillis
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

All around the country, clean sheets of paper are awaiting a visit from sharpened pencils as plans for 2016 begin to form.

Officially, no county panels are not allowed to begin training until November 15 and, even then, only those eliminated early in the championship can make a start. The rest will return on a graduated basis over the following weeks, depending on how far they progressed in the championship.

As of now, Mayo, Down,Tipperary and London are the only counties still to appoint football managers. In hurling's Liam MacCarthy Cup tier, all the managers are in place although Anthony Cunningham's situation in Galway still remains unclear.

There was a time when new managers were given time to settle in but the pressure is so great nowadays that judgements are often made after just one season.

Jim McCorry led Down footballers back into Division 1 in his first season but resigned in August after claiming that some members of the county executive had "lost the plot". He had earlier survived a county board vote by just two votes (22-20).

It's against that pressurised background that the following ten new managers begin their terms.



"I thought the players adopted a very lazy attitude last year. That was very difficult for management," said Barton shortly after taking on his first county job.

Those comments will have left the players under no illusion of what lies ahead under Barton, who takes over at the end of a year when Derry dropped into Division 2 and lost to Donegal and Galway in the championship.

However, they ran Donegal to two points, having earlier beaten Down in Ulster so there's no reason why Barton, 53, won't be setting his sights towards winning a first Ulster title since 1998.

He has wide managerial experience at club level, having earlier decorated a long inter-county career with an All-Ireland medal in 1993. A highly intelligent centre-forward, very much in the Tony Hanahoe mould, he looks a very good appointment, provided, of course, that the Derry players respond to him.

Derry's first round Ulster clash with Tyrone next year will be an early defining point for Barton's stewardship.


"I'm not interested in the players who just want to play for Kildare. I'm looking for players who want to win with Kildare. And there's a big difference between the two," said O'Neill after stepping up from a support seat in Kerry to the No 1 role in Kildare. Backroom duties with Tipperary hurlers, Mayo and Kerry footballers have earned him a high reputation and it now remains to be seen how he copes with being the main man in his native county.

He takes over at time when Kildare are in Division 3 - their lowest ranking for many years - and coming off big championship defeats by Dublin and Kerry. Still, Kildare did beat Cork in the qualifiers, a success O'Neill will attempt to turn into a new launch-pad.

The Leinster draw has been good to Kildare, pitting them on the same side as Longford, Offaly, Westmeath (all Division 3) and Wexford (Division 4) so reaching the Leinster final is an achievable goal.

All of which makes it a good time to take over in Kildare.


"We all want to win every competition - I am looking for performance in every game. We need to have continuity and consistency," said Healy.

Both have been absent from Cork in recent seasons, leaving the county ankle-deep in frustration as it tries to rationalise how top-place finishes in Division 1 in 2014 and 2015 could be followed by implosions in the semi-final and final respectively.

It was the same in the championship, especially this year, where Cork came so close to beating Kerry in the Munster final, only to misfire badly in the replay and implode against Kildare in the qualifiers.

It's still a very good time to take over in Cork. On their day, they are a top side but lack consistency and also have great difficulty in camouflaging weaknesses when things begin to go wrong.

Healy has lots of club managerial experience and also worked under Conor Counihan as a selector.


"I'm 53. I have the energy for it, the enthusiasm for it. I'm not going to have that forever. I saw this as probably the best time to go into county management," said McStay, who steps up to senior inter-county managerial level for the first time.

However, he knows the Roscommon scene very well, having managed St Brigid's to All-Ireland glory in 2013.

O'Donnell managed Roscommon seniors in 2009-10-11 and had two stints with the minors so it looks the ideal combination to attempt to advance things to the next level.

They have a tough start, as Roscommon face into a Division 1 campaign where they will be seen as relegation candidates.

Whatever happens, it will leave them well-primed for the Connacht Championship where they are on the same side of the draw as New York, Leitrim and Sligo.

It means they can reach the final without playing Mayo or Galway, a duo they haven't beaten in their last 12 attempts over 14 seasons.


"It always has been an ambition of mine to manage at county level, and I made a few attempts at it previously and wasn't successful. To be honest, I thought it had passed me by at this stage," he said after being appointed as Tomás ó Flatharta's replacement.

He takes over one of football's great enigmas.

Laois can look like the team best placed in Leinster to challenge Dublin or, alternatively, like a group that wouldn't be guaranteed to get out of Division 4. They were lucky to avoid dropping into Division 3 this year, surviving only because Westmeath and Kildare lost on the final day.

Laois later lost a championship replay to Kildare by 13 points before crashing out of the qualifiers to Antrim.

All in all, a deeply frustrating season for Laois but then there's nothing new in that. Now the big question is whether Lillis can bring stability to the scene.


He returns for a second stint, having previously managed Longford in 2004-05, during which he took them into Division 1A, before being relegated.

Indeed, he had the distinction of masterminding a famous win over Kerry in Pearse Park in February 2004, in what was Jack O'Connor first game in charge of the Kingdom. However the season later spiralled downhill and Connerton quit after a championship qualifier defeat by Dublin.

His second term comes at a time when Longford are showing promise, having won promotion to Division 3 this year before beating Offaly, Carlow and Clare in the championship and losing to Dublin and Kildare.

Granted the two defeats were by big margins but playing in Division 3 next year will help them narrow the divide.




"I'm well aware of all the rankings that have been around, of all the trophies Cork haven't won and have won, but I'm not buying into the theory that Cork hurling is on its knees or anything like that. I know the group of players and I wouldn't have taken on the job if I didn't believe in them," said Kingston.

His experience as selector for a time during the Jimmy Barry-Murphy's reign is a plus, since it not only gave him an insight into what's required at this level but also left him with an in-depth knowledge of many of the squad.

There's great uncertainty over exactly where Cork stand at present, with their heavy defeat by Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final especially depressing.

Yet, two weeks earlier, Cork had beaten Clare. The markets have no faith in Cork, quoting them at 7/1 outsiders for the Munster title and seventh favourites (10/1) for the All-Ireland.


He knew a year ago that he would replace Eamon O'Shea after this year's championship so it's a seamless transition in one sense. However, Ryan won't be afforded the leeway usually afforded to a new manager, since anything less than an All-Ireland win is deemed a failure in Tipperary.

Appointing a manager a year in advance is unusual - indeed it caused some raised eyebrows in Tipperary - but the board backed it, believing the continuity would helpful.

Ryan certainly knows the players very well but now comes the hard part as changes are required, despite winning the Munster title this year. Galway hit them for 26 points and shot 11 wides in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Add in some shots which dropped short and it adds up to 40 chances conceded by Tipperary.

The defender in Ryan knows that's not nearly good enough.


"I can definitely see that there is loads of potential but we need to change a lot of what is happening in the background," said Kelly after taking in as many Offaly Championship games as possible following this appointment.

The Tipperary man's stint in Kerry was most successful as he took them into 1B of the Allianz League and into the Liam MacCarthy tier in the championship.

Ironically, Kerry and Offaly will face each other in the Leinster 'round robin' next year, a game Kelly will have targeted as a 'must-win.'

The reality is that Offaly have fallen so far behind the major powers (they are 500/1 to win next year's All-Ireland) that progress will be slow. Kelly has the patience for it - hopefully Offaly have too.


A shrewd appointment by Kerry as they attempt to build on the progress achieved under Eamonn Kelly. Carey has lots of managerial/selector experience at club and county level in hurling and camogie, all of which will be required as the Limerick man leads Kerry into difficult territory in 1B of the Allianz League and into the Leinster 'round' robin' alongside Offaly, Carlow and Westmeath.

Retaining a place in 1B would be a fine achievement and with Kerry due to host Carlow and Westmeath in the Leinster 'round robin' there's a decent chance they will qualify for the quarter-final and a clash with Galway or Laois.

Irish Independent

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