President laments ‘cult of manager’

GAA president Liam O’Neill has launched a remarkable broadside against inter-county managers, claiming they wield too much power.

While also criticising Dr Danny Mulvihill for his comments on the association’s new sideline regulations, O’Neill revealed he would prefer to see the GAA follow rugby’s example and counties appoint managers and coaches.

Hitting out against managers for their growing habit of releasing dummy teams, O’Neill said it is a type of behaviour symptomatic of their disregard for the organisation as a whole.

“It’s more of this thing that the manager of the county team is somehow divorced from the county and from the organisation, that they have a right and that they’re an entity in themselves.

“That’s because we’ve built up the cult of the manager and we’ve allowed the cult of the manager to build.

“Even in the media, it’s now Mick O’Dwyer’s Clare. Clare were there for a long time putting out teams. Now suddenly it’s Mick O’Dwyer’s Clare, it’s Kieran McGeeney’s Kildare. It’s Jim Gavin’s Dublin.

“The brand has been there a long time before any of these fellas got in charge of it. 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 county 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.”

O’Neill is frustrated with the manner in which managers are misleading supporters about the true identity of their starting line-ups and can’t understand the practice.

Speaking to the media in Croke Park yesterday, he said: “I think you all know that the current league is being promoted by us in a way that leagues haven’t been before, we’ve stepped it up.

“Key to it is the announcement of teams by managers. It’s a source of huge disappointment to us that people wouldn’t co-operate with that because, quite honestly, whatever team you have out at this time of the year is not going to frighten your opponents. I really do not understand the psychology to it. 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’s playing.”

O’Neill, though, is unsure as to what approach the GAA need to take to tackle the problem in the short term.

“The difficulty is, the minute we start to tackle it head on with managers, managers will be invited to make big statements against it. That’s the usual way it works.”

O’Neill also slammed Gaelic Games Doctors’ Association chief Mulvihill for his criticism of the new sideline regulations, which limit a team to having five personnel on the sideline. Kildare football doctor Mulvihill said the measure impacted on his duty of care to the players as he was informed just one medic was permitted at pitch-side. However, O’Neill pointed out Mulvihill and the Kildare physio are both free to sit on the sideline providing the team don’t breach the quota of five.

O’Neill said: “Let the physio worry about himself, Danny Mulvihill has a right to sit on the sideline. Nobody has got more column inches over the last week than Danny Mulvihill. But he’s had his say, he can sit on the sideline. What more does he want?”

O’Neill explained he only wanted one person, either the manager or a selector, allowed on the sideline barring the water/hurley carriers but Central Council voted for five.

“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. Less difficulty and it’s working well. So one man is not happy.”

O’Neill also dismissed the suggestion made by Conor Counihan that sideline crowding wasn’t a problem at inter-county level.

However, Kerry selector Mikey Sheehy has become the latest inter-county official to slam the regulations. “I think it’s a crazy system altogether. There are far more important problems in the GAA rather than worrying about sidelines.”

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