Monday 23 October 2017

Colm Keys: No way back for Kieran McGeeney

Kieran McGeeney speaks to his Kildare players after their defeat against Tyrone in what proved to be his final game in charge
Kieran McGeeney speaks to his Kildare players after their defeat against Tyrone in what proved to be his final game in charge
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Kildare County Board were quick to convene a committee to choose a successor to Kieran McGeeney in the hours after his sacking on Tuesday night.

Ironically, the first name that the five men charged with moving the county on from the turmoil created by the divisiveness of the vote may have to consider is the man the board fired by the smallest of margins.

The players have formally called for McGeeney's reinstatement as manager and the assumption must be made that they feel he would still be prepared to go back.

The ball is back in the court of the county board, and if the committee – all of whom the Irish Independent understands are executive members who voted to retain McGeeney – take sufficient soundings that suggest there is a mood swing in the county, a second vote may well be on the cards.

But surely McGeeney himself will not allow himself to be dragged back in under these circumstances.

He has clearly grown to love working with the Lilywhites. That he was willing to allow his name to go forward earlier this week – even in the knowledge that so many senior clubs (a reported 11 out of 16) were massing against him – underlines that.

Exploit

The players clearly don't want to move on so fast without him. And, as bad as their Leinster championship defeat to Dublin was, they are still arguably the best placed team to exploit any potential switch-off that could come from Dublin in 2014. Sometimes the darkest hour is the one before the dawn.

But would such a proud and principled man be prepared to subject himself to another vote in the hope that some of the delegates who went against him will change their mind?

It is most unlikely. Playing GAA politics has never been his thing and the idea that abstentions would be converted into votes and that arms could be twisted here and there in his favour would not sit easily with him.

He wanted the job again, but at what cost? Even his close bond with the players surely couldn't bring him back down that path.

What's done is done, and while the decision could well be reversed at a second vote – the indications were last night that some delegates and clubs would be prepared to change their mind for the certainty of a one-year term and in the interests of harmony – the lasting legacy is that, first time up, a majority of clubs and a number of the executive wanted change. And those scars are too difficult to heal.

That said, McGeeney would surely have had some idea that the players would be calling for his reinstatement in their statement issued through the Gaelic Players Association yesterday evening. Could that be taken as an indication that he may just be willing to hang on in the event of a volte-face by the clubs and delegates again?

It would only require a small shift in direction to restore McGeeney to the position. But the prospect of huge numbers changing their position and bowing to the players' wishes to create a platform of near unanimity is most unlikely.

Perhaps if the county board executive had disclosed well in advance of Tuesday night's meeting that the recommended term was just one year, it would surely have been sufficient to carry their proposal.

But instead the impression was that a two- or possibly three-year term was being sought and that was a critical factor in swinging the vote against him.

Still, as small as the gap appears to be, it is still too great to bridge.

The players' statement is not as explosive as it was expected to be and as it could have been, given the rage of some of their personal utterances in the minutes and hours after Tuesday night's vote. Critically, the statement did not give any indication of what action they would be prepared to take if their wishes were not acceded to.

One of the interesting points raised by them is that the executive "should have used the powers available to them to reappoint Kieran McGeeney as senior football manager in accordance with their own wishes and those of the players."

What did they mean by that? Is it a suggestion that the executive had the power to reappoint a manager without deferring to the clubs? No executive committees have that power and approval from club delegates is sought on such matters of importance.

The idea that they could push through such a recommendation without consultation with the clubs is misplaced. It may also highlight the division in the executive itself, which proposed the motion in the first place to retain him.

Once that decision was made at executive level, should every member not have been mandated to support it on the floor, regardless of personal opinion?

The strength of the players' call for McGeeney's reinstatement and their sharp criticism of a "dysfunctional" county board won't sit easily among some elements in the county, nor will their contention that the decision they took was what "served their clubs and personal agendas best."

McGeeney will be satisfied that he has very strong support from the dressing-room, the place that has always been of paramount importance to him.

However, ultimately, any potential shift in the ground in his favour might never be enough to persuade the Armagh man to return.

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