Thursday 22 August 2019

Taylor keen to bring stability to Sligo football

Taylor made: Sligo manager Paul Taylor is relishing the opportunity to pit his wits against Galway this weekend. Photo: Sportsfile
Taylor made: Sligo manager Paul Taylor is relishing the opportunity to pit his wits against Galway this weekend. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Paul Taylor is the first home-grown Sligo manager since Tommy Breheny stepped aside in 2007. Breheny was the only manager in the last 44 years to deliver a Connacht title.

No pressure then on the Eastern Harps man ahead of his first Connacht championship campaign in charge!

A poor league certainly won't have stirred a sense of anticipation in the county for the weeks ahead with relegation to Division 4 assured in early March after five successive defeats.

Taylor is the fourth manager in six years, following Pat Flanagan (2014), Niall Carew (2015-2017) and Cathal Corey (2018) and breaks a sequence of six outside managers in succession, dating back to Breheny.

He's had a lot of personnel issues to deal with between retirements, long-term injuries and unavailability and that's reflected in their team selection for Sunday's semi-final with Galway in Markievicz Park (3.30), with 10 changes from the corresponding game 12 months ago when they lost by 18 points.

Just Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch, Adrian McIntyre, Patrick O'Connor, Adrian Marren and Niall Murphy remain, though Sean Carrabine and Keelan Cawley, replacements in Salthill, start now.

With a high managerial turnover, it's inevitable that players will chop and change too.

"It has probably been difficult for players that management has changed like that so often. It's difficult for new groups, whoever it is, they come in and they start again and they have different ideas," Taylor, a former Sligo player who just missed out on the 2007 triumph, conceded.

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With Charlie Harrison and Ross Donovan retiring and Kevin McDonnell, another defender, succumbing to a bad hip injury, Sligo are lacking experience.

But Taylor, a selector for Kevin Walsh when the Yeats County reached the 2010 Connacht final, is hopeful that valuable lessons were learned during their tough league campaign ahead of his reunion with Galway's current boss.

"We debuted 12 players in the National League this year. Seven or eight of them were constants and in other years you would have had panels where maybe you'd introduce five or six players throughout the whole league for 20 minutes or a half-an-hour in games and given them a platform for years to come. But that's the panel we had and that's where the lads were at."

Taylor feels their response to relegation was evident in the last two games they played against Longford and Offaly, who they almost beat, when already condemned to the basement.


"I would have been asked a lot of questions coming into the last two games in the National League. Will it be hard to motivate lads? Will it be hard to get them going for the Offaly game in particular? And it never was. I still feel we progressed in every game we played," he reflected.

After recent instability - they've lost one of their most talented young players, Red Óg Murphy, to the AFL too - Taylor hopes he can provide a base for the future now.

"We're in a period of change and we're looking to progress for a number of years, to put a panel together and build a unit that's going to be competitive for Sligo football for the next five to 10 years.

"This is my time, this is my experience and we're going through a difficult patch at the moment but I'm sure that this group of lads will turn that corner."

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