herald

Monday 23 October 2017

That's another fine managerial mess you've got us into ...

SO you think October is the month when the inter-county monster goes into hibernation? You must be a new arrival on Planet GAA ...

The managerial merry-go-round has been in full swing this past week. Late on Friday night - with the meticulous planning for which he was renowned, only this time blindsiding the party-waging Gaelic Writers' Association instead of the Dublin defence - Jim McGuinness vacated his Donegal throne.

Ever since, it's been a whirligig of comings and goings and even stayings, with a bit of Killinaskully tragi-comedy thrown in for good measure.

Pat Flanagan had been casting such 'come-and-get-me' glances towards his native Offaly that Sligo, a faithful lover scorned, could take it no more.

Johnny Magee, one-time Dublin defensive rock, was sprung as Wicklow's new manager-elect.

Then Jimmy Barry Murphy signed on for two more years with the Leeside hurlers. And soon after, JBM's erstwhile comrade with the Barrs and with Cork, Ger Cunningham, was installed as the metropolitan heir to Anthony Daly.

This being the Dublin county board of John Costello, it was all done with the minimum of fuss, confirmed via a pithy email and without a whiff of discord trailing in the appointment's wake.

UNMITIGATED

Which brings us to Westmeath. As outlined elsewhere on this page, the saga over whether Paul Bealin should stay, then who should replace him, has been an unmitigated mess.

It's all very well saying that clubs are the democratic heartbeat of our great association - and that remains a perfectly valid aspiration - but the normal course of events is that key officers are entrusted with the role of sourcing the right manager, then clubs trust that judgement call and vote accordingly.

Here, though, there is recurring evidence of a disconnect between the grassroots and the top table in Westmeath. A year ago, following the controversial removal of Pat Flanagan (same one), there was something of an underwhelmed reaction to Bealin's appointment.

The locals were even less 'whelmed' by what followed: an entire season of losses. Yet the chairman stuck to his guns and pushed for another year - with predictable consequences.

As often happens in such circumstances, a county reacts to a failed 'outside' punt by craving a home-grown solution.

However, the Westmeath hierarchy didn't exactly have credit built up in the grassroots bank when they proposed Peter Leahy, in the face of more high-profile candidates, local and outside. Not even the star dust of Liam McHale's name could swing it ... and that was before the Mayo man's dramatic intervention yesterday, insisting he had not agreed to be part of his management team.

It all leaves the Westmeath board in a self-inflicted pickle - and still without a manager.

Here's the thing, though: there is always an element of the gamble in every inter-county appointment. Some marriages, seemingly Utopian, end in swift divorce. Other fit hand-in-glove.

Brian Cody had no inter-county managerial CV when he took over Kilkenny 16 years ago; ten All-Irelands later, one can only speculate on what might have happened in a parallel universe populated by Cody-less Cats.

McGuinness was twice turned down by Donegal before his county relented. Would they have won Sam and three Ulsters in four years without him?

Still, by autumn 2010, McGuinness had proven his credentials at U21 level. Donegal were fortunate to have him, ready and eager and armed with a plan. Not every county is so lucky.

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