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Saturday 21 September 2019

Appointments of Jack and 'Banty' go against the trend

Former Kerry boss Jack O’Connor has been appointed as the new Kildare football manager
Former Kerry boss Jack O’Connor has been appointed as the new Kildare football manager

If there's a splash of nostalgia about the respective appointments of Jack O'Connor and Séamus McEnaney in Kildare and Monaghan, it's also in direct contrast with recent trend.

While only a small part of the shock of Paul Galvin's taking the Wexford senior manager's job was over his age (39) and complete lack of managerial experience, a fair chunk of the surprise over Michael Fennelly's appointment in Offaly was due to the fact that the man who captained Ballyhale Shamrocks to an All-Ireland club title just this March is only 34.

Unlike O'Connor (who was ratified last night by Kildare on a three-year deal) and McEnaney, neither have any track record as managers, although Fennelly worked with the Kildare footballers in the role of performance coach this year.

Yet the buzz of over their respective arrivals on the inter-county manager circuit is palpable.

And both the Wexford and Offaly county boards have been roundly praised for their vision, taking a chance on a big name despite having no direct links with the county or a hectic managerial CV.

Benefit

"Maybe there was maybe a bit of a merry-go-round and you'd wonder 'how did such and such get another job?," says former Dublin footballer, Tomás Quinn.

"What was it based on if there wasn't really progression or success in the previous job?' Maybe that's why they went in a different direction."

Ryan McMemamin's ascension to the Fermanagh job is roughly along the same lines although he, at least, has the benefit of two seasons spent with Rory Gallagher as a selector.

Gallagher meanwhile, is set to be appointed as Derry manager.

But given the pace of tactical change in both football and hurling at inter-county level in the last decade, a close familiarity with the modern terms of engagement may be a more valuable asset for a potential manager than local knowledge or specific experience.

Wicklow are another county exploring this theory.

The sub-committee charged with the responsibility of finding a replacement for John Evans have yet to make any recommendations to the county board but at least one recent Dublin player with no prior managerial experience was informally sounded out.

Galway are the latest county to begin the search for a manager after Kevin Walsh's decision to step down was confirmed.

Unlike Wexford or Wicklow though, they have several home-grown candidates, successful former players like Páraic Joyce and John Divilly with big profiles among the current crop of players and relevant recent experience.

"Straight away if I heard, as a Wexford footballer or even an Offaly hurler, those guys are going to command respect straight away. You are going to be interested," as Quinn points out.

"If they ring you I'd say straight away there is going to be a higher percentage of guys that will say 'yeah, this would be worth going in to see what they are about.'

"So I think straight away they are starting on a good footing. I would say they are brave appointments but it's certainly worth trying anyway rather than going back to the same old."

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