Friday 24 May 2019

Martin Breheny: 'Mixed results for 2019's new football managers'

Mayo manager James Horan. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Mayo manager James Horan. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

This year's crop of new football managers have had very mixed fortunes so far, with James Horan, Jack Cooney and Terry Hyland presiding over the big success stories.

Anthony Cunningham, Mickey Graham and Paul Taylor saw their teams relegated, while the rest were in between, ranging from Peter Keane, whose Kerry team reached the Division 1 final, to John Maughan, who saw Offaly survive in Division 3 with a win on the last day.

Last autumn delivered an unusually high turnover, with no fewer than 12 counties changing leadership. Here's how the new managers are faring as they head into the championship.

JAMES HORAN (Mayo)

Westmeath manager Jack Cooney. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Westmeath manager Jack Cooney. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Presiding over a first national title success for 18 years was the ideal way to mark his return, but he knows that much of the reaction was over the top. The league win was portrayed as unquestionable proof that Mayo were not only re-energised, but also back at the head of the posse as Dublin's main challengers.

Beware of being overly-impressed by the last game you've seen. Mayo played very well in quite a few games, but lost to Dublin and Galway, the two teams who have caused them biggest problems in recent seasons.

ANTHONY CUNNINGHAM (Roscommon)

Roscommon's league form in recent seasons suggests they are a Top 10 side but not a Top 8 one. Cunningham made it clear at the start that stabilising the defence was a top priority and it went well in the opening three games when they conceded an average of just over 12 points per game.

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However, it increased to over 21 points in the next four games, which is a big worry for Cunningham.

PETER KEANE (Kerry)

Leitrim manager Terry Hyland. Photo: Sportsfile
Leitrim manager Terry Hyland. Photo: Sportsfile

How quickly public and pundit opinion changes. Kerry's five successive wins at the start of the league were hailed as the launch of something special for the Keane era, before two defeats by Mayo attracted a plague of naysayers.

The truth? It's in between. The losses to Mayo may be just as helpful for squad development as the six wins, not just for the players but for Keane as well.

MICKEY GRAHAM (Cavan)

It was an unusual introduction to inter-county management for Graham, who had double-bookings with Cavan and Mullinalaghta until mid-February.

It was always going to be a difficult league for Cavan, whose only win was against Roscommon. They scored 3-13 that day, but otherwise, the extent of the attacking problem Graham faces was underlined by an average score of just over 11 points per game.

PADDY TALLY (Down)

Down missed out on promotion to Division 2 on scoring difference, having blown a big chance when losing by a point to Louth in Newry in their last game. It was typical of the erratic patterns which saw them drop to Division 3 under Eamonn Burns last year so Tally still has a mindset issue to address.

JACK COONEY (Westmeath)

Two trophies (O'Byrne Cup and Division 3) already secured, Cooney is leading a confident camp, but danger lurks in the form of Laois, whom they meet in the Leinster quarter-final. Westmeath beat Laois twice in the league, but the memory of a 10-point defeat by John Sugrue's men in last year's championship is still fresh and painful.

PáDRAIC DAVIS (Longford)

Darren Gallagher's absence for the championship is a big setback for Davis after a League where Longford lost to Westmeath, Laois and Down.

WAYNE KIERANS (Louth)

After a sustained nosedive in 2018, Kierans succeeded in stabilising the camp and beginning an ascent. Louth just missed out on promotion to Division 2, but overall it was a progressive campaign so Kierans will take a confident camp into the championship opener against Wexford.

JOHN MAUGHAN (Offaly)

The most experienced of all 32 managers, having previously been in charge of Clare, Mayo (twice), Fermanagh and Roscommon, he is finding Offaly a real challenge. They needed a win over Sligo on the last day to survive in Division 3 but that was no surprise as they are ranked 24th on average league finishes over the past six seasons.

PAUL TAYLOR (Sligo)

A disappointing start for Taylor, with Sligo losing all seven games as they dropped into Division 4 after seven seasons in Division 3. They had the worst defensive record of all 32 counties.

TERRY HYLAND (Leitrim)

He's on a winner already. After securing promotion from Division 4, the year is a success, irrespective of how Leitrim fare in the championship. The first test will be to see how much they have closed the gap with Roscommon, who beat them by 14 points last year and by 17 points in 2017.

BENJI WHELAN (Waterford)

Fourth in Division 4, it was Waterford's highest league finish since 2011, which is encouraging for Whelan and his squad.

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