Local legend or All-Ireland winner? Frontrunners emerge for next Kildare manager
Potential contenders won't be thin on the ground when Kildare commence their search for a new football manager after Cian O'Neill confirmed his departure yesterday.
There had been expectation in the wake of their qualifier defeat to Tyrone that O'Neill would not see out the final year of his agreement with the Kildare County Board, who had extended it by two years after an initial three-year term. The vacant position will be an attractive one to an ambitious manager, with candidates inside and outside the county potentially being drawn to it.
Kildare are the reigning All-Ireland U-20 champions who were managed by Davy Burke and his name is sure to feature. Burke, now in charge of Sarsfields, did not remain on as U-20 manager for this year, stating at the time that his desire to push on and progress was not available to him in Kildare at the time.
That was interpreted as an interest in joining the senior team management and pointed to a difference of views with the board at the time. Burke is still young and may prefer to bide his time until his U-20 group has some more experience.
Jack O'Connor could also be a candidate that Kildare would look to. He had been in the running for the Kerry job after Eamonn Fitzmaurice vacated last August and has remained on as U-20 manager this season.
But his desire to step back into senior inter-county management could see him drawn to Kildare where he has been active on the club scene as a coach to Moorefield, current club of his sons Éanna and Cian, and where he has struck up a partnership with their manager Ross Glavin, who guided the club to a Leinster title in 2017. A Glavin/O'Connor ticket could tick a lot of boxes for Kildare.
The county's most-celebrated defender Glenn Ryan was overlooked for the position four years ago when O'Neill was preferred having put together a strong team of former colleagues to assist him, but whether he would have the appetite to put his name forward in those circumstances remains to be seen.
Anthony Rainbow, Tom Cribbin and Niall Carew are others from within Kildare who have taken up county appointments elsewhere in recent years.
Outside the county, Malachy O'Rourke will be inevitably linked but from his Tyrone base he'd face a five-hour round trip and, after seven years with Monaghan, may feel the urge to take a break.
O'Neill issued a polished statement that failure to reach their potential as a group shaped his decision.
"Progression to the Super 8s in 2018 was met with equal disappointment across these four years where frustratingly we didn't always reach our potential as a group," he said.
"As manager, this is my greatest regret and ultimately my responsibility, and this undoubtedly informed my decision to step away from this role."
Thanking all the main stakeholders, O'Neill cited travel as another reason for the decision.
"After four years of travelling from Cork to Kildare three to four times a week, and with it a level of commitment and selfishness that means other aspects of life undoubtedly suffer, it's time to hand the baton over."
O'Neill's Kildare had some good moments - they got to a Leinster final and lost to Dublin by nine points before reaching the Super 8s last year with qualifier wins over Derry, Longford, Mayo and Fermanagh after a bad defeat to Carlow.
But this season they failed to build on some good performances against Monaghan, Galway and Kerry in their Super 8s group last year, and were without Daniel Flynn who didn't commit and Paul Cribbin who was injured.