Friday 19 January 2018

O'Neill: 'Cult' of manager has become big turn-off

GAA president Liam O'Neill
GAA president Liam O'Neill
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

GAA president Liam O'Neill believes the "cult" of the team manager in Gaelic games has been allowed to build up far too much, to the point where they are acting "almost as independent agents".

O'Neill feels that some managers have become "divorced" from their county and the Association in general and has suggested that the rugby model of manager/coach may serve the GAA better in the future.

He was speaking in the context of the disconnect over the last two weekends between the teams that counties have announced in the build-up to matches and the teams that have actually started. Few teams have appeared as listed in match programmes or in the media, and O'Neill agrees that this can cause problems promoting games.

"I really do not understand the psychology to it," he said. "It's as if the public and GAA authorities are being punished equally. It's not what we want. We want the teams to be known, we want to be able to publicise the teams. We want to generate interest and for people to go to the games.

"That's not just revenue-related. That's because there's huge enjoyment in going to the games and we love to have crowds there, but people need to know who exactly is playing."

O'Neill believes the issue firmly rests with the role currently played by managers who he believes wield too much power over such matters.

"We've allowed that to build up. I would prefer to see a situation where we change the notion of team manager, that the county board would appoint a manager as happens in other codes and you have a 'team manager' and the fella with the name is the coach. Then we could have a situation where you could say to the board, 'your nominee is the manager, he's the person for making sure the team is announced'. At the moment we haven't tackled that issue.

"We've allowed the cult of the manager to build up to a stage where they're almost independent agents. People will say when I say that, 'That's just the GAA looking to control it'. It's not."

O'Neill is already on a collision course with some managers and backroom staff over the restriction on numbers allowed inside the pitch parameters. Kerry selector and attacking legend Mike Sheehy described the restrictions yesterday as "a crazy situation".

But O'Neill argues that it has worked well over the last two weekends despite the protestations of the Kildare doctor and chairman of the Gaelic Games Doctors' Association, Danny Mulvihill, who has insisted on being on the sideline with his physio. The GAA have brought in new regulations reducing the numbers allowed 'inside the wire' from 12 to five.


The original plan was to reduce it to seven, but O'Neill wanted just three (a maor foirne and two water carriers) with everyone else back in the 'designated area.' "I wanted one (not including water carriers) but I didn't get my own way," he admitted.

O'Neill insists that doctors are not restricted from being on the sideline but the ceiling on numbers allowed will remain at five including the two water carriers, who have specific placements around the field.

He said he had "no reaction" to the threat from Mulvihill that doctors will walk away from the sport if the restriction continues.

"We've had two weekends where this has worked very well. We had a situation in one venue last weekend in the midlands where team management sat in the stand and there were only two people on the sideline. They chose not to have five, they had two and it worked perfectly, so they decided to embrace it. The sideline is much tidier. I think people recognise that now."

Irish Independent

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