It’s all about time. Anthony Daly knows it.
Last Sunday when he was asked about his future as Dublin manager he initially deflected it before admitting, “maybe it’s time to give someone else a go”; it just wasn’t the time to say for sure it was time.
In the coming days or weeks though, he’ll let everyone know; he gave it six days after his last game over Clare to declare it had been his last. It might be different if he was living in Dublin but he doesn’t. He also has the awareness to realise that whoever is over Dublin in 2015 really needs to be there for Dublin in 2017 and does he really have the energy and time to devote to another three-year project outside his own county bounds?
Larry Tompkins was the only inter-county manager to get a seventh year in a job without winning an All-Ireland. A seventh year for Daly wouldn’t be right for him or for Dublin.
But he can take pride in knowing one thing: just as this might be the right time to go, he was the very right man for that job for every one of those six years.
There are a lot of theories and books out there on leadership but one of the most valid is the notion of situational leadership: there are leaders for situations, or to be more exact, leadership styles for certain situations.
The best leaders can adapt a style for the situation. Daly was excellent at this, knowing when to bring in someone like a Liam Moggan as a performance coach in 2011 and a skills coach like Tommy Dunne in 2013.
What the research shows though, is that too few coaches or leaders are duly flexible, too many of them are inflexible. And the hurling championship will show you pretty much the same.
Right now TJ Ryan is just what Limerick need. One of their own, playing the passion card, allowing them to play with a freedom now that he’s not stifled himself as a No 2. He may not go down as one of the great coaches or managers as his predecessor Donal O’Grady will, but for Limerick in 2014 he has been a better fit than O’Grady was.
That wasn’t the case in 2011. Right then Limerick needed a transformative coach after the previous year of upheaval and Limerick rightly identified O’Grady as fitting the profile after the impact he’d made in Cork under not-too-dissimilar circumstances. They needed a disciplinarian and a terrific teacher of the skills.
Then, after he departed, John Allen stepped in, just as he had in Cork. Allen has always had the awareness and humility to admit and realise that he couldn’t have done the transformative job that O’Grady did before him, but what he had a capacity to do was suitably adjust to the situation and acknowledge and increase the maturity of the group by empowering them with more decision-making and, as a consequence, confidence.
When O’Grady then succeeded Allen, rather than preceded him, however, he didn’t seem to have a similar awareness whatever about humility. Instead he coached them like Allen was never there, as if they had never been Munster champions. They needed a different approach from O’Grady but they didn’t get it until Ryan stepped into the spot vacated by him.
Now the short puck-out strategy of the league has been replaced by a more direct one that suits their identity and physicality. As TJ is now expressing himself, so are his players. The approach might need some further tweaking in 2015 but for now a Limerick team run by an all-Limerick backroom team is just what that group needed.
You look elsewhere around the hurling world and certain teams have just who they need for now. Liam Dunne always knew Wexford was going to be a long-term project, probably five years, and he has the energy and experience now to see it through. Jimmy Barry-Murphy was made for Cork just as much as he has made this version of Cork. Eamon O’Shea suits this group of Tipp players, though it took him until this time last year to realise he was making a mistake trying to recreate so much of 2010.
The real fascinating one though, will be Davy in Clare. Last year Fitzy was just the right fit for Clare; as Donal Óg Cusack pointed out in these pages recently. But it’s high-octane stuff that can wear players and a group down after three or so years.
Twenty years after Pat Riley wrote a chapter called The Disease of Me on the common mistakes of first-time champions, Clare seemed to replicate every mistake in that part of his book. If Davy adapts, he and Clare will thrive. If he does not, they will crash and burn. And Daly could be just the right man for that situation.
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