Tuesday 28 January 2020

Sean Boylan: Return of the king

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Seamus McEnaney made sure it was business as usual last night, attending the first Meath senior championship match of 2012 between Dunboyne and Dunshaughlin in Ashbourne and carrying out his duties as Royals manager in the forensic manner he promised he would.

At the same time, the Meath executive were meeting 20 miles away in Navan, where they were putting the finishing touches to the motion that will aim to remove him on Wednesday night.

McEnaney's presence in Ashbourne was an act of defiance, the same defiance that county chairman Barney Allen, one of the three-man committee who had recommended him for the position in the first place back in 2010, had met when he travelled to Monaghan to meet him yesterday and ask him for his resignation.

That request was bluntly refused with the same mantra that the media had encountered after Sunday's nine- point league defeat to Louth that demoted Meath to Division 3, a loss that panicked the executive into a snap meeting on Wednesday night and another last night to formulate a strategy for removal.

McEnaney is gaining unlikely admirers for his refusal to go quietly and make life a lot easier for some of those who put him in the job in the first place.

But will sufficient admiration build in the coming days to keep him in the job for the forthcoming championship? That seems most unlikely. Not with the spectre of the county's greatest manager and one of the true icons of Gaelic football looming in the background.

In the event of the expected vacancy early next week, Sean Boylan is now seen as the most likely successor. The prospects of him accepting the role are thought to be strong.

Less than seven years on from ending the longest managerial reign of modern times in the GAA, Boylan has already been approached about stepping back into the breach. It is a dramatic turn of events given how, only 11 days ago, he confirmed his departure from a role that was created last September with him in mind.

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Out of the blue, Boylan was made Meath's first director of football.

The announcement was made to great fanfare at the same county board meeting where McEnaney got the green light to continue for a second year with a new management team around him.

Boylan's appointment to the role conveniently helped to douse flames around McEnaney continuing.

But the role didn't work out, and last week Boylan confirmed what the majority of the county had known for weeks.

However, at a meeting this week to clear the air over the departure, the possibility of taking over in the event of a vacancy was broached.

In the midst of a great tempest the trawlers are heading for the safest harbour they know.

After years of aggravation over managerial appointments since his departure in 2005, they have looked to him as the great unifier, the man who can restore stability and harmony by his status alone.

Last week, in signing off from the director of football role, Boylan declared that he would never want to let his county down in any way. Never could he have thought that such a declaration would be tested so soon.

By reaching for Boylan at this time, the board executive know that they have the best chance of dampening the furore over recent results -- and McEnaney's time in charge was contentious from the outset.

From losing Boylan as director of football to potentially restoring him as manager, represents quite a coup.

Boylan's task, if he does assume control, won't be easy and there may be harrowing days ahead for him too -- just as there were for McEnaney.

Changing the manager may relieve the pressure from supporters, who never accepted an outsider in the first place, but it won't necessarily change the nature of the team.


There may be a few twists yet, though. McEnaney will bank on dressing-room support in the coming days, and when county board officials met with senior players on Wednesday evening prior to the first executive meeting, those players made it clear that responsibility for recent poor results should rest more with them than the manager and that they preferred that he should stay.

The executive pressed ahead with their request for McEnaney to go anyway, conscious that the pressure building on the manager and the team was now spilling on to their laps as well.

How tangible will that support from players for McEnaney be in the coming days? Will it be sufficient to stoke militancy? Again that's most unlikely.

Their bargaining position is poor after a terrible run of form that culminated in such heavy defeats to Tyrone and Louth. They don't have too many chips to play.

A statement expressing their dissatisfaction with McEnaney's removal may be the height of it. A downing of tools is not something they would probably have the collective will for. And anyway, refusing to play for a Meath team potentially being managed by Sean Boylan could be tantamount to an act of treason.

Throughout the last season and a half, McEnaney has been extremely loyal to the squad. Not once has he chosen to publicly criticise them. He will watch their next move with great interest. It will tell him a lot.

Being a businessman, McEnaney will appreciate that balance sheets count for everything, not the goodwill that exists between management and staff. Right now, the balance sheet is very much in the red. That's the bottom line and the directors have taken responsibility to move against him with a trump card up their sleeve.

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