ONE of the busiest managerial schedules in the GAA begins in earnest next weekend when Micheal McDermott will take the reins for the first time with the Clare footballers.
In the coming months, McDermott will be combining his duties as manager of Munster club champions Kilmurry-Ibrickane with the task of resurrecting the fortunes of the county's senior team.
Clare take on UCC next Sunday in Cooraclare in the McGrath Cup, beginning what will be a hectic spell for the Cavan native.
At the beginning of December, McDermott finally broke his Munster final duck when winning the provincial title at the eighth time of asking. Before then, he had lost five deciders with the Clare junior team, three of them by a point. He was also a selector with the 1997 Clare senior team beaten by Kerry and he lost last year's club final with Kilmurry to Limerick's Dromcollogher-Broadford.
Now, he faces a gruelling start to the 2010 season. He must run the rule over 60 county hopefuls as well as put the finishing touches to Kilmurry's All-Ireland quarter-final preparations against London's Tir Chonaill Gaels in Ruislip at the end of the month.
"It's a nice headache to have but it will be all hands on deck, there's no doubt about that," he admits. "To be brutally honest, I feel that Tir Chonaill Gaels will give us our toughest game of the campaign. People might smirk at that but look closely: they brought Crossmaglen to extra-time and Corofin struggled to beat them in recent years.
"With the recession in full swing over here, they will have footballers from all over Ireland to call upon. And in Ruislip they will be some proposition. We know that.
"As regards the county team, I'm probably the only manager in Ireland who welcomed the closed season because it gave me a chance to get my house in order. Having said that, I know I can't take my eyes off the Clare team. If we want to achieve success in Division 4, we really have to hit the ground running because there are about five teams in contention for promotion. The sides are so competitive in that league, it's unreal.
"We have a lot to prove in Clare and I'm intent on making a success of the job. It will be a case of driving forward in a positive fashion with both teams and seeing where it takes us. Rest assured we will have it all planned out. You can't leave anything to chance in this game and once you're organised you can manage both."
McDermott has never been afraid to seek inspiration from outside the ranks. With Kilmurry-Ibrickane, he left no stone unturned in his preparation, bringing in the likes of Tony Scullion, Luke Dempsey, Brian Whelahan, Jack O'Connor and Justin McNulty to talk to his side. Last year, he brought Mickey Harte and Seamus McEnaney into the camp.
"You just do all you can," he said. "I made a promise after losing last year's Munster club final to Dromcollogher-Broadford that we would do our living best to get back to that stage again.
"I'm a bad loser at the best of times but it took me about two months to get that defeat out of my system. I went home for about 10 days and couldn't stop analysing that loss. My wife Marie eventually asked me to snap out of it but she will be hearing nothing but football next year with two teams to manage."
McDermott deserves his shot at the big time. He arrived in Clare through his employment with NIB in 1996 and from '97 onwards he has been constantly involved with football in the county.
He managed the Clare juniors for 10 years and served alongside John O'Keeffe in '97 as a senior selector. Then came the Kilmurry job and after winning back-to-back county titles, he was asked to replace Frank Doherty as county senior boss.
"Football has been part of my life since my days in Cavan and it will always be that way. I was delighted to break that losing Munster final hoodoo and I know now that the stakes have increased. The Kilmurry supporters are demanding and they want more. On top of that we have a huge job to do with Clare. But it's a challenge and that's what we're all about."