Field of dreams the spur as managers hit high road
ALMOST half of the football managers will be from 'outside' counties next year. What drives them across county boundaries? Money, madness or motivation? Martin Breheny investigates
LIAM HAYES'S appointment in Carlow this week means that, of the 30 football managers appointed for 2005, 14 will be from 'outside' counties.
While that may be only a marginal increase on 2004, the fact that almost half the football counties are now looking over the fence for managerial expertise underlines the radically altered GAA landscape. And the 'outside' influence would have been higher but for the unusual situation that prevailed in Offaly and Tipperary.
Galwayman Gerry Fahy quit Offaly in controversial circumstances and was replaced by former Faithful hero Kevin Kilmurray, while the departure of Andy Shortall from Tipperary was equally contentious. He was replaced by local man Seamus McCarthy, who has long experience of management in the county.
Since Kilkenny don't compete for the Sam Maguire Cup, Waterford are the only championship county who have still to name a senior football manager. They hope to be in a position to finalise the appointment next week.
In hurling, five of the top 12 counties have outside managers, which in percentage terms, is roughly the same as in football. Offaly (John McIntyre), Limerick (Pat Joe Whelahan), Waterford (Justin McCarthy), Laois (Paudie Butler) and Antrim (Dinny Cahill) are all managed by outsiders.
Connacht football has the highest proportion of outsiders, with only Mayo (John Maughan) continuing to remain loyal to local talent. Mayo's Peter Ford has crossed the boundary to succeed fellow countyman John O'Mahony as Galway boss; Dublin's Tom Carr continues in Roscommon; Sligo have appointed Fermanagh man Dominic Corrigan; and Westmeath's Dessie Dolan, father of Westmeath's county star of the same name, has replaced Longford's Declan Rowley in Leitrim. Rowley has joined Luke Dempsey as a Longford selector.
Six Leinster counties have outside managers. Dempsey (Westmeath) moves across the border to Longford; Kerry's Mick O'Dwyer and Dublin's Val Andrews continue in Laois and Louth respectively as does Kerry's Páidí Ó Sé in Westmeath; Laois's Pat Roe in Wexford, while Meath's Hayes has taken over in Carlow.
Hayes would argue that since he was born in Carlow and his father played for the county for over 12 years, he isn't an outsider in the strictest sense of the word. However, he grew up in Meath, with whom he played for over 11 years, winning two All-Ireland and five Leinster title. He now lives in Dublin.
In Munster, Kerry's John Kennedy and Liam Kearns are in charge of Clare and Limerick respectively, while in Ulster Derry's Eamonn Coleman manages Cavan and Donegal's Charlie Mulgrew coaches Fermanagh.
The growth in cross-border trading has inevitably led to claims that some managers are being paid handsomely for their services, thereby increasing the pressure on the GAA's amateur wall at a time when players are querying why they can't have a greater share of the income cake.
GAA president Seán Kelly is concerned over the threat of creeping professionalism but remains to be convinced that the scale of the managerial payments are anywhere nearly as high as those touted on the gossip circuit.
"One thing is definite. This year's four most successful managers - Donal O'Grady (Cork hurling), Jack O'Connor (Kerry football), Pete McGrath (international rules) and Brian McEniff (Ulster interprovincial football) - were not paid," claims Kelly in an interview with Brian Carthy in his book, The Championships 2004. Nonetheless, the rumours persist that a minority of managers have negotiated lucrative deals. However, in many cases, the reason for the cross-border trade has nothing to do with money but rather a desire to continue coaching at elite level.
When Luke Dempsey's term as Westmeath manager ended, he was faced with a dilemma. He was keen to remain in coaching but, with no county job available, he opted to manage Kildare side Leixlip. Then, in bizarre circumstances, he found himself in Carlow following Mick Condon's resignation after this year's National League.
Dempsey stepped in as a Red Adair fire-fighter and master-minded Carlow's great win over Longford before they lost to Laois and Down. In ordinary circumstances, Dempsey would have remained with Carlow but, when the Longford job became available, it made far more sense from a travelling perspective.
"It took me 90 minutes to get to Carlow while I can be in Longford in 35 minutes. That's a big difference when you're travelling several times a week over a long season. You would need to be self-employed if you have to travel long distances. At least that way, you can plan your day," he said.
Quite whether the self-employed would agree is another matter as they would feel that Dempsey and his fellow-teachers have most time of all to devote to team management. Dempsey accepts that is the case in summer but not at this time of year when so much of the preparatory work has to be done with county panels.
Dempsey has yet to experience the curious feeling which most outside managers eventually encounter when they come up against their native county but accepts that it's pure business and leaves no room for sentiment.
"I'll be with Longford next year but the first result I'll listen out for after our games is Westmeath's," said Dempsey.
"I love managing teams and I'm delighted to have been given a chance to do it again. That's the reason I'm in Longford and I suspect it's the same with most other managers who move outside their own counties."
Hayes, who will take his first steps into inter-county management when he meets the Carlow players on Monday night, believes that, since there are so few county managers' jobs available, it's an honour to get a chance to test his coaching skills.
"Only 33 teams compete in the All-Ireland football championship and two of those are overseas," he pointed out. "That leaves 31 managers' job, which is a small number when you consider how many coaches would love to test their theories at the highest level.
"I'm really looking forward to working with the Carlow players. They have as much right as anybody else to have ambitions and my job is to help them realise them. It's up to them to decide how far they want to go and up to me to help them do that."