Thursday 23 May 2019

Collins to join elite group while Laois go on trial

Clare manager Colm Collins. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Clare manager Colm Collins. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Colm Collins is set to become the fourth longest-serving inter-county football manager when he is ratified for a sixth year at the Clare helm in the coming weeks.

Only Tyrone boss Mickey Harte (17 seasons in 2019), Dublin manager Jim Gavin (seven) and Monaghan supremo Malachy O'Rourke (seven) have served for longer than the Banner boss, who has overseen a big change in fortunes since taking over from Mick O'Dwyer in 2014.

The Cratloe clubman has brought them from Division 4 to Division 2 - they have solidified their place in the league's second tier and were just one place off promotion this year - while he famously guided them to an All-Ireland quarter-final in 2016.

While their 2018 championship run was short-lived after a heavy Munster semi-final defeat to Kerry and a Round 3 Qualifier loss to Armagh, Collins will look to bounce back next year with his backroom team - led by influential coach Alan Flynn - remaining unchanged.

John Sugrue is another manager already planning for 2019 and the Laois boss is leaving no stone unturned in his bid to unearth potential new talent for his O'Moore squad with opportunities to impress.

The Kerry native has devised a divisional football competition allowing potential panellists the chance to stake their claim with the county divided into four regions and unique 'trial' games commencing after the Laois SFC final, with the county champions excluded.

Games will be played on a round-robin basis with the top two meeting in the "cup final" and bottom pair in the "shield final" and all four teams will be overseen by "independent management teams".

Sugrue wrote in the match programme for last week's quarter-finals: "We will be narrowing down a panel of players from this and from there 2019 begins. We hope you come out in your numbers and join us on the first step."

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Meanwhile, Antrim football boss Lenny Harbinson has received a significant boost with ace attacker Matthew Fitzpatrick expected to be available for the Saffrons next year despite studying in Liverpool.

With Paddy McAleer moving to the Middle East and Conor Murray carrying a long-term injury, Fitzpatrick's presence would be a huge addition as Harbinson looks to build on his first season in charge.

Elsewhere, London's hurlers are on the look-out for a new manager with Fergus McMahon leaving due to work commitments after four years in charge of the Exiles and guiding them to a Christy Ring Cup final appearance earlier this season.

Irish Independent

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