Walsh: I knew my time was up

Walsh: I knew my time was up

Kevin Walsh, who stepped down as Sligo football manager last night, knew that his fifth season was going to be his final one in charge.

The away dressing room in Owenbeg was where Walsh informed his Sligo players of his resignation in the aftermath of their 0-15 to 0-8 All-Ireland SFC first round qualifier defeat to hosts Derry.

The former All-Ireland and All-Star-winning midfielder led the Yeats men to Allianz League Division 3 and 4 titles, an All-Ireland Junior crown and two Connacht senior final appearances during his tenure.

But the 2013 season was not a rewarding one with just two wins in seven league outings, while Walsh's charges suffered a first ever Connacht Championship reversal to London before Derry ended their interest in the All-Ireland Championship yesterday.

In an interview on RTÉ's 'The Sunday Game' programme, Walsh admitted: "As far as I'm concerned this is as far as I can bring the Sligo team. We tried our utmost and even with a lot of players moving on from last year and stuff like that.

"I suppose consolidating Division 3 (status) at the start of the year was good, but not getting the Championship results we would have liked to was a bit disappointing.

But at the same time and regardless of results, I did know that a fifth year was going to be enough for me and I just told the boys that in there (the dressing room)."

Asked if he has designs on managing his native Galway at some point in the future, Walsh insisted that getting a result against the Oak Leafers was all he was thinking about yesterday.

"I came up here expecting to win this game. Some people might think I'm daft, but certainly we were expecting to win this game," he said.

"We prepared very, very well, we had two or challenge matches in the build-up. We played well in the game and had we taken our chances we probably may well have won it.

"Other than coming up here to win this, I have absolutely nothing else on my mind. I'll go home now, another five-hour journey I suppose, and we'll take it from there."

Former player-turned-pundit Eamonn O'Hara, whose record-breaking Sligo playing career began in 1994, was one of Walsh's harshest critics after the one-point loss to London in Ruislip in May.

Rather than apportioning blame among his former Sligo team-mates, O'Hara said that the manager should be held accountable for the result and suggested that he should 'do the County Board a favour' and resign.

It is clear that O'Hara had a disagreement with Walsh over his decision to exclude him from the Sligo panel for the 2013 season, which led to the Tourlestrane clubman announcing his inter-county retirement in mid-May.

Giving his side of the story after the London game, O'Hara told RTÉ at the time: "For me, he was asking me at 37 years of age to commit to a training regime of four nights a week collective sessions on November 1, it was crazy as far as I was concerned.

"Unfortunately work and everything else conspired against me committing to that and I said I would be available from January 1. Kevin made it quite clear throughout the year he was going to stick with the panel of players that trained from November 1 and you have no problem with that.

"But he opened the door to James Kilcullen, a Mayo man, and rightly so. James is a fantastic footballer and contributed a lot to the league. But unfortunately James was playing club football for his club yesterday, Ballaghaderreen. So he wasn't first choice midfielder as he was throughout the year.

"Kevin Walsh made big calls this year and last year. Every one of them has come back to backfire against him. For me I think he lost the players throughout the year."

O'Hara was an analyst on last night's edition of 'The Sunday Game' and having watched footage of Derry knocking Sligo out of the Championship, he stuck firmly by his initial criticism of Walsh.

"I don't feel any different regarding my comments. After losing today 15 points to eight, I think everybody expected that Kevin was going to stand down," said the 2007 Connacht Championship winner.

"The year itself has been very, very difficult for all the Sligo people involved, but the results haven't been good - you only win two out of your seven league games and then lose your two Championship games. It wasn't a good year and he hasn't got the best out of the guys."

O'Hara also made reference to Walsh's managerial future, suggesting that he would probably do well with his native county Galway.

"I feel he probably will (get involved with the Galway team in the future). He will probably be very, very successful with his own team at whatever stage that may be.

"But Sligo people have to move on now, the County Board will have to get everything sorted out and plan for the future."

In response to a query linking him to Sligo managerial job, the 2002 All-Star centre forward said that he does not want to be considered for the position.

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