The 2017 championship season is fast reaching a gripping climax but for many inter-county managers, they’re left twiddling their thumbs after bowing out of the hurling and football competitions earlier than they would have hoped.
We caught up with six leading bosses to find out what they’ll be doing for the rest of the summer, to get their thoughts on the season that was, and to see if there’s anything they would have done differently, given another chance
Martin, you’ve stepped down after three successful seasons with Meath. What now for you?
I’m away to Spain tomorrow for a couple of weeks but I will get back into hurling at some level, at some point along the line, there’s no question about it.
But it’s nice to step back for a while. I’ve a couple of young kids, Sean is 8 and Nikki’s 12, and they’re only really coming into the GAA circles now.
Sean is into hurling, football and soccer while Nikki plays underage football with the county champions in Meath, St Ultans. Sean’s with St Cuthberts and they’ve both started the journey now. They love the GAA and love going to the games with me too.
I’ve no doubt they’ll follow me no matter where I go.
How do you reflect on the year?
It was a very successful year for Meath again. What I wanted to do was get out of Division 2B, while the Christy Ring Cup last year was a bonus.
We were unlucky to be relegated from the round-robin in Leinster, only two points behind Westmeath, who should have beaten Offaly and put up a good show against Tipp.
We learned an awful lot from being in Leinster but we’d learn a lot more if we were left there, as opposed to being pushed back down.
Any regrets, or things you would have done differently?
No regrets whatsoever. In my three years, I couldn’t have asked for any more. Absolutely no regrets — and I apologise to nobody.
What now for the rest of the summer?
I’ll help out with the intermediate team at home (Kiladangan). Other than that, I’m taking a root and branch look at what we did in Laois. There are a number of things I need to change up.
I’m looking forward to going to every kind of match, to see can I find guys with something to offer. In my first year, I was trusting everybody else to tell me who should be on the panel but now I can stand back and have a good look. We took over in November and had to be ready for training in two weeks. We have to get our house in order from a training point of view.
Thoughts on the season just gone?
Injuries were a huge thing, they crippled us. That’s disappointing but why did it happen? We have to look that from an injury prevention viewpoint and core work must be done in advance of a new season. We have a very young and keen crop, so what can be done to develop them and become more competitive at the top table?
Anything you would have done differently?
There’s loads I would have done differently but I had an unbelievable backroom team who provided great support, along with the county board. And after being beaten by Dublin, we had that support from the supporters in Laois. So, it’s been a very enjoyable year.
Michael, how are you after the year that was?
I’m here in the Whitfield clinic after a hip operation but I’ll be home on Sunday, and I’ll be back with St Mary’s in Clonmel in a couple of weeks.
Your thoughts on the 2017 season?
We didn’t have the greatest league but we didn’t have our full panel either. There are regrets that we didn’t beat Offaly in Leinster but I’m happy enough with how we finished the season against Tipperary, when our hurling was good. We would have liked a goal to see where that would have taken us.
Cormac Boyle went playing football but he came back for the end of the hurling season. Tommy Gallagher picked up a cruciate injury and we can’t afford to be missing guys like hat. The Offaly game was one we could have won but we conceded too many goals.
We’re improving all the time and while we’d like to have a stronger panel, there are only 13 clubs in Westmeath, and we can’t do anything about that. We’ll sit down, talk to the county board, and see where we are in a couple of weeks, once I get up and running on my feet again.
Niall, what are you up to for the rest of the summer?
I’m reviewing the whole year, number one, and meeting players to review their performances. We’ll try to get things right for next year — whether I’m there or not, I haven’t decided that myself yet. Then, I will meet the county board and review the year with them.
I’m back in work but I haven’t thought of anything since, only Sligo. The only way I can bring closure to a defeat is to start working away on getting things ready for next year.
I haven’t sat down with my wife and kids yet to see if it’s a runner but you have to find that closure, whether that’s closing a chapter or writing a new one.
Thoughts on the year gone by, Niall?
Of the three years, I felt this was our most competitive. Ok, we didn’t get promoted or win anything in Connacht, but we were so competitive and that’s progress. If you continue to do that, it won’t be long before you’re getting that desired Connacht title, or promotion.
Anything you would have done differently?
I don’t think there is, no. I’m realistic in terms of where we’re at and I believe we were just very unlucky, especially against Mayo with the goals they got. I keep going on about that but it’s such a fine line for us. When you don’t get decisions going your way, it’s out of your control, and that’s why I wouldn’t have changed much.
Peter, what are you up to since the season ended?
I’m on a break on Achill Island but hoping to make Semple Stadium to watch the Tipperary footballers. I’ll watch the matches on TV and concentrate on parenting, which I should be maybe doing more of.
I’m going to try and get fit, getting back to some running, and I’m back to school next week, working on timetabling and getting things set up for next year. I’ll also get to Croke Park for the big football matches that are left.
Thoughts on your first year with Laois?
Look, you’d be always be looking at what you did well, and what you need to improve on. In some cases, we’d like to have our time back all over again but all you can do is look forward.
What would you change about year one if you had the chance?
I’d be keeping that to myself! We had a one-year term with Laois but I would like to continue because we didn’t achieve anywhere near what we wanted to. There’s a huge amount of work to be done, we have a fair idea of what needs to happen but it’s about whether we can do that or get the opportunity to execute it.
What’s been happening with you since the Wexford defeat, Billy?
Life goes on! I took a bit of time get over that defeat, and stayed away from football at a deep level. I’m obviously at matches and watching them but I took a step back from day to day stuff. I’m in the process of reviewing the year with the county board. You need a break from that total commitment or you wouldn’t be fresh going back in.
Thoughts on the year?
It flew, it went very fast. The league is a fantastic competition and something the GAA should look at in terms of how they structure the championship.
Nobody gives out about matches in February and March week in, week out but in the summer, lads can’t play for their clubs because there’s an inter-county game in two or three weeks?
That doesn’t add up. Everybody understands that the championship is more important but during the league, there’s colleges football at that time of year too.
Anything you would have done differently in your first year?
There’s nothing jumping out at me but there needs to be a more realistic evaluation of expectation levels in some counties. How many teams can win a provincial football championship?
It’s in the region of 12 or 13 in any given year, so what represents tangible success? That’s where the league has become a fantastic competition for counties down the divisions.
We learned an awful lot from being in Leinster but we’d learn a lot more if we were left there
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