Tuesday 20 March 2018

The 10 new managers under the spotlight ahead of the National Football League

Mayo boss Stephen Rochford filled the biggest of vacancies that arose during the autumn: SPORTSFILE
Mayo boss Stephen Rochford filled the biggest of vacancies that arose during the autumn: SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Mutiny in Mayo, carping in Cork, delusion in Down and reservations in Roscommon all seem a long time ago, but it's only from now on that the impact of the fall-out from last autumn can begin to be assessed.

With new managerial regimes in place in the four counties, all of whom are in Division 1, the scrutiny levels are set to intensify rapidly.

Stephen Rochford faces the most difficult task of all, having taken over in Mayo from Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly, who were hunted out by a rebellious squad.

Peadar Healy begins his term in Cork as a replacement for Brian Cuthbert, who was subjected to some vicious personal criticism on social media before opting out.

Down's desperation after losing to Wexford in the qualifiers resulted in Jim McCorry quitting four months after he steered them into Division 1. He claimed that some members of the county executive had "lost the plot". He was replaced by Eamonn Burns.

John Evans also took Roscommon into Division 1 but faced a revolt by some clubs against his re-appointment and resigned, clearing the way for a partnership of Kevin McStay and Fergal O'Donnell.

Six other counties also have new managers as they head into the start of the big action next weekend.

Stephen Rochford (Mayo)

He filled the biggest of the vacancies which arose last autumn and, by extension, he also landed the biggest challenge. With Mayo alternating between top two and top four for the past five years, Rochford will be judged solely on whether Sam Maguire finally goes west.

An intriguing dimension will be how he goes about changing a pattern and a panel which, for all the close calls, didn't deliver the great prize. There could be some big-name casualties.

Kevin McStay/Fergal O'Donnell (Roscommon)

Kevin McStay, joint Roscommon manager. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile

The dream team? O'Donnell in his second term joins McStay, who guided St Brigid's to an All-Ireland club title. Optimism levels are soaring in Roscommon but whether it's justified remains a moot point.

Peadar Healy (Cork)

Peadar Healy, Cork manager

He can take it that doing well in the Division 1 group games won't be enough. Cork topped the table in the last two seasons, winning 10, drawing one and losing three of 14 games.

However, both seasons hit a downward spiral later on, prompting Cuthbert to quit. Healy is new to this level, so the decision to bring Eamonn Ryan aboard is smart. There won't be a shrewder eye looking in on a football pitch anywhere this year.

Eamonn Burns (Down)

He takes over in a county where ambition tends to outstrip reality. Down are 1/3 favourites to be relegated, and with Monaghan awaiting them in the first round of the Ulster Championship, it could be a difficult year. Even so, they must be patient and give Burns a chance to build something solid.

Damien Barton (Derry)

Damien Barton, Derry, in action against Paul Bealan and Paddy Moran, Dublin. All Ireland footbal semi-final. Croker Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

From Division 1 finalists in 2014 to relegation last year - that's the volatile environment into which the 1993 All-Ireland winning centre-forward takes his talents.

Derry's problems last year were mainly attack-based: they averaged just over 12 points per game in League and Championship.

Mick Lillis (Laois)

Laois manager Mick Lillis got off to a winning start. Picture credit: Sam Barnes / Sportsfile

The Clare native managed Laois minors last year and now steps up to a senior set-up that requires rebuilding after a barren 2015.

Managing Laois would never be classed as one of the easier jobs in football so, as ever, much depends on whether he gets an enthusiastic response.

Cian O'Neill (Kildare)

Kildare manager Cian O'Neill (SPORTSFILE)

He has promised a more direct style - and applied it in the O'Byrne Cup - so it will be interesting to track's Kildare's path.

Getting out of Division 3 should be comfortably within range. They are also in the easier half of the Leinster draw so reaching the final is an achievable target, one they hit only once in the last 12 campaigns.

Denis Connerton (Longford)

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Longford manager Denis Connerton. Photo: Matt Browne / Sportsfile

"There were no Whats App groups the last time I was there," he joked when commenting on the start of his second term with his first stint in 2001-04. There are lots of other changes too but, in general terms, Longford are much the same - a side alternating between Divisions 3 and 4.

Liam Kearns (Tipperary)

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Liam Kearns has been operating in the early stages of 2016 without almost 20 players: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

He joins the small group who have managed in three counties, having previously been in charge of Limerick and Laois. The Tipperary job looks appealing after the underage successes of recent years but the lure of Australian Rules (Colin O'Riordan) and hurling, plus injury issues leave the squad weaker than it might be for the attempt to build on recent progress.

Ciarán Deely (London)

The former Wexford captain takes over from Paul Coggins, with whom he worked last year.

Irish Independent

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