Wednesday 23 May 2018

County level sees major turnover of players

Liam Silke of Galway. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Liam Silke of Galway. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

More than one out of every three footballers that played some part in a competitive game for their county in 2017 did not resurface for the 2018 Allianz Football League.

That doesn't directly equate to a stark player-drain figure but it runs a very close line to the percentage fall-off from year-to-year in the inter-county game.

Stephen Gollogly of Monaghan. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Stephen Gollogly of Monaghan. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile

Of the 1040 players who saw action in the football league or championship for their counties in 2017, 366 have not played so far in 2018, some 35 per cent.

Many of those involved in competitive games last year who have not featured since have, more than likely, been deemed surplus to requirements by inter-county managers, a natural process. But retirement, apathy, travel, work and long-term injury point to a fast-flowing turnover of players at the top level.

Naturally, the flow is slower among Division 1 league counties where ambitions are higher and squads are more settled. Some Division 1 players, like Galway's Liam Silke and Donegal's Eoin McHugh are going to the US for the summer but they are exceptional cases.

However, in Division 2 and 3 the revolving doors are spinning quickly. Derry, for instance, who have endured relegation in three successive years now taking them to Division 4 used 37 players in 2017 but more than half (19) have not returned so far. That figure is likely to reduce however with the return of some of their Slaughtneil contingent.

Dublin senior footballer Jack McCaffrey. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Dublin senior footballer Jack McCaffrey. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

If these figures are anything to gauge by, Tyrone have one of the most settled squads. Just four players of the 31 they used in their 12 games have not returned - Sean Cavanagh and Justin McMahon, who have retired, Cahir McCullagh and replacement goalkeeper Jonathan Munroe.

Otherwise, Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has been able to keep strong continuity from year-to-year as he builds a settled panel.

Enviable

Dublin boss Jim Gavin clearly knows what his best squad is and is in the enviable position of not having to deal with mass departures.

Diarmuid Connolly is out of the picture but he featured for 20 minutes in this year's league against Mayo.

Bryan Sheehan of Kerry. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Bryan Sheehan of Kerry. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Six others, however, who played in their 14-match league and championship programme, have not been back for one reason or another.

Jack McCaffrey (cruciate) and Paul Flynn (back) have undergone surgery, Denis Bastick has retired while Jason Whelan, Conor Mullally and Mark Schutte played no league football.

Schutte was involved with the Cuala hurlers until the end of March so his opportunities have been limited but expectations that he would return to Pat Gilroy's hurlers have, so far, fallen through. Monaghan are another county with a settled feel as they continue to make the most out of less plentiful resources.

Stephen Gollogy's retirement, Barry McGinn's cruciate injury apart, just three other players have yet to be re-introduced - Gavin Doogan, Conor Forde and Brian Greenan.

In keeping with most of the other championship protagonists, Mayo's number is low with Alan Dillon's retirement and Liam Irwin's switch to London. But Keith Higgins, Chris Barrett and Donal Vaughan, who all sat out the league, are now back training while Donie Newcombe has moved on.

Kerry's transition and extended rest saw a lot of their more established players moved to the margins but Darran O'Sullivan, Killian Young, Donnchadh Walsh and probably Anthony Maher should all feature in the months ahead.

Bryan Sheehan and Brendan Kealy have retired, Jonathan Lyne has been released while Kieran Donaghy spent the winter and spring playing basketball.

In all their count is 11 with Conor Geaney, Conor Keane and Denis Daly not featuring during the league.

Galway's figure of 15 is inflated by the absence of six Corofin players while Donegal's six is low, considering Declan Bonner was the only new manager in the top flight in 2018.

The total for Division 1 is 66 but for Division 2 it's 103 while 107 did not play with Division 3 teams. The figure drops to 94 for Division 4.

With 17 Meath have had one of the highest turnovers since 2017 as players like Paddy O'Rourke, Michael Newman and Donnacha Tobin made themselves unavailable, James Toher returned to the hurlers and Ronan Jones, Ruairi O Coileain and Padraic Harnan moved abroad for study and work. Cork's 18 is also high but four of that number were committed to Nemo Rangers during much of the campaign.

In the lower divisions Tipperary, Fermanagh and Carlow are among those with the lowest turnover figures, seven each from the playing pool used last year.

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