Wednesday 20 November 2019

Reality bites hard for three first-year managements

Peter Creedon relegated with Laois. Photo: Sportsfile
Peter Creedon relegated with Laois. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Three of the seven football managers who are in their first season face a big test of their recovery powers after experiencing relegation from various divisions of the Allianz football League.

Kevin McStay (Roscommon), Mattie McGleenan (Cavan) in Division 1 and Peter Creedon (Laois) in Division 3 all heard trap doors slamming shut, creating fears that confidence levels among their squads will be hit ahead of the big championships tests.

Billy Lee: Lost first three games with Limerick in Division 4. Photo: Sportsfile
Billy Lee: Lost first three games with Limerick in Division 4. Photo: Sportsfile

Seamus 'Banty' McEnaney (Wexford) was the only new manager to preside over a promotion (Division 4), while Andy McEntee (Meath) saw his side come up agonisingly short in Division 2.

Billy Lee (Limerick) and Brendan Guckian (Leitrim) steered their teams into mid-table finishes in Division 4. Now, the big question is how will all seven fare in their first championship attempts.

Kevin McStay (Roscommon)

He is in his second season but his first as the sole occupant of the No 1 seat, having had Fergal O'Donnell as joint manager last year. Roscommon lost their first six games, leaving relegation a certainty before they won their final outing in Division 1 against Cavan, who also dropped down.

Still, the summer prognosis is encouraging as Roscommon enjoy the best championship draw of all 32 teams. They have a bye into the Connacht semi-final, where they will be at home to Leitrim or London, who finished fifth and eighth respectively in Division 4. It gives McStay an excellent chance of saving a turbulent season, as a provincial final place offers two routes into the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Mattie McGleenan (Cavan)

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Relegated from Division 1, they had three good days when beating Mayo and drawing with Kerry and Monaghan but disappointed in the final outing against Roscommon.

They conceded the least number of goals (two) of all teams in the four divisions. McGleenan believes that the league was a 'getting-to-know-you' exercise for him and the squad and that both will be well-primed for the Ulster quarter-final against Monaghan or Fermanagh on June 11.

Andy McEntee (Meath)

Third behind Galway and Kildare in Division 2 but, significantly, Meath improved after a sloppy start, picking up seven of eight points in the last four games. They were top scorers in the group. Reaching the Leinster final is the new target. They will probably have to beat Louth and Kildare to get there.

Peter Creedon (Laois)

Dropping into Division 3 under Mick Lillis last year was disappointing but the decline continued this season, ending with a drop into Division 4. Still, one of the two wins was against Longford who they meet in the first round of the Leinster Championship in Portlaoise so they have a good chance of making some progress.

Seamus 'Banty' McEnaney (Wexford)

They had ensured promotion from Division 4 after five games before 'Banty' went into experimental mode for the last two outings, where they lost heavily. Wexford were also well-beaten by Westmeath in the final. 'Banty' has achieved the first goal by winning promotion but now needs to make a decent show in the championship, starting against Carlow, who beat Wexford in the league.

Billy Lee (Limerick)

A bad start, during which they lost the first three games, wrecked their prospects of escaping from Division 4 at the first attempt. Lee must have wondered what he had let himself in for at that stage but things changed quickly from there on. Four straight wins left Limerick fourth on the table and in a much better frame of mind for the championship clash with Clare.

Brendan Guckian (Leitrim)

Four wins left them in fifth place in Division 4, just behind Limerick on scoring difference. Significantly, they had a comfortable win over London, who they play in the Connacht quarter-final, with Roscommon awaiting the winners.

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