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Five of the best football managers

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Meath manager Seán Boylan, with his son, is interviewed by RTE's Brian Carthy after the final whistle of the 1996 All-Ireland SFC final replay. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Meath manager Seán Boylan, with his son, is interviewed by RTE's Brian Carthy after the final whistle of the 1996 All-Ireland SFC final replay. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Meath manager Seán Boylan, with his son, is interviewed by RTE's Brian Carthy after the final whistle of the 1996 All-Ireland SFC final replay. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

1. Mick O’Dwyer (Kerry, Kildare, Laois, Wicklow, Clare)

His achievements with Kerry – including eight All-Ireland senior titles in 12 seasons – make him the undisputed No 1.

However, there’s more. His successes in Kildare and Laois, whom he led to Leinster titles for the first time in 42 and 57 years respectively, enhanced his status as a special manager. And he wasn’t finished then either.

Steering Wicklow to Tommy Murphy Cup success in 2007 and their first championship win in Croke Park in 2008 was the forerunner to their best year when they reached the last 12 in the 2009 All-Ireland with qualifier wins over Cavan, Fermanagh and Down.

2. Jim Gavin (Dublin)

Six All-Irelands, including five in a row, seven Leinster and five Allianz League titles in seven seasons stand as a monument to Gavin’s exceptional term.

He took over at a time when the ingredients for a golden era were there, but it still took clever planning to make it work.

Gavin was very much the right man at the right time.

3. Kevin Heffernan (Dublin)

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Gavin took over in an era of plenty in Dublin, whereas Heffernan signed up at a time when Dublin were in deep recession in late 1973, as they had lost their way.

It took a special brand of persuasiveness to convince a squad that was used to losing that if they followed his master plan, they would win an All-Ireland championship.

‘Heffo’ led the change in management styles, quickly followed by O’Dwyer with the Kingdom for what turned into a fascinating sideline duel over several years.

4. Seán Boylan (Meath)

Like Dublin when Heffernan took over in 1973, Meath were in a bad place when Boylan swung through the doors in Páirc Tailteann in late 1982.

By the time he left 23 years later, they had won four All-Irelands, eight Leinster titles and three National Leagues. The All-Ireland haul (1987-’88 and 1996-’99) was achieved with two different squads, underlining Boylan’s capacity to rebuild.

5. Mickey Harte (Tyrone)

His first six years in charge spoiled Tyrone. Three All-Irelands (2003-’05-’08) plucked them from the ‘still to welcome Sam Maguire’ waiting room to mid-table on the honours’ list.

They didn’t win any more All-Irelands during his time, leaving some Tyrone supporters with less than due appreciation for what he had achieved.

Breaking through the psychological barrier to win a first All-Ireland title is always a massive challenge, as is maintaining the solidity which enabled them to do that in the first place.

Tyrone, under Harte, did that. His teams and their style weren’t always loved, but they were usually mighty effective.


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