Ex-international McNamara to take top job in new direction
After a wait of almost five months, Athletics Ireland has announced who will take the helm as director of High Performance, and it's set to mark a substantial change from the previous regime.
Whether that's good or bad is still unknown, but right now there's no getting away from the reality that Irish athletics needs to change, and change utterly.
Paul McNamara (41), a former international distance runner, will assume the most influential role in Irish athletics on April 10.
Outgoing HP director Kevin Ankrom announced his departure in October, and while the American brought a raft of international experience, recurrent complaints from athletes about poor communication blighted his six-year tenure.
McNamara, on the other hand, brings scant international managerial experience, but has a wealth of knowledge of grassroots structures, having worked for Athletics Ireland since 2006 as a regional development officer.
In recent years he has overseen their endurance programme and was also part of the management team at last year's Olympics.
It's understood several international candidates were in contention, some of whom had far more administrative clout and experience than McNamara, but AAI opted to stay in-house.
It is understood that McNamara's salary is substantially reduced from what Ankrom received.
While AAI's statement yesterday announcing McNamara was typically sunny-eyed, in the end his term will be judged in two ways: the athletes' results and their feedback about him.
Some highlighted to the Irish Independent yesterday that McNamara will have a much stronger grasp of the needs of Irish athletes than Ankrom.
"He's fair but firm," said one 2016 Olympian of McNamara. "His attention to detail is superb, a good guy who will have the athletes' best interests at heart."
Others believe he is under-qualified for such an important position, with one Olympian, speaking under the condition of anonymity, describing it as a "cheap and safe move for AAI but not good for athletes or coaches".
Another international medallist claimed McNamara would be "useless" in the role.
McNamara himself said: "I'm delighted and proud to be taking up the role and looking forward to working closely with the athletes and coaches to optimise performances at European, world and Olympic level."
As contentious as it is, right now it's too early to say if it's the right move. The least we can do is give him a chance.