MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Roaring 40s the golden age for GAA managers

How tricky is it for these managers to deal with players from a different generation, asks Michael Moynihan.

Chatting to a pal last week. Points made about obscure American guitar bands: several, unfortunately.

Points made about intercounty managers: one, but pertinent.

How tricky is it for these managers to deal with players from a different generation, he asked, particularly as that generation is a social media-using, ultra connected and oversharing one?

Once I looked into this, though, I noted something interesting.

Last year’s All-Ireland- winning managers were Jim Gavin, then aged 45, and Michael Ryan, then 46.

Go back further: when Donegal won the football All-Ireland back in 2012, Jim McGuinness was 40 that year; two years earlier, when Tipperary stopped Kilkenny’s drive for five All-Ireland titles in a row, manager Liam Sheedy was 41.

Three years after that Tipperary win, Clare beat Cork in a replay to take Liam McCarthy home: their boss, Davy Fitzgerald, was 42 at that point.

The lads at the back with their hands can take them down. Yes, there are exceptions to that early-40s rule all over the place. The last manager to win an All-Ireland football trophy before Jim Gavin was Eamon Fitzmaurice with Kerry three years ago, and Fitzmaurice won’t be 40 until this year.

Mind you, in that year’s final his opposite number was a 42-year-old Jim McGuinness; his opposite number in that year’s semi-final (and replay) was a 42-year-old James Horan of Mayo.

You could go on. The manager on the other side of Croke Park when Davy Fitzgerald’s Clare was Jimmy Barry-Murphy of Cork, who was almost 60 in 2013, while Michael Ryan’s opposite number in last year’s All-Ireland final was Brian Cody of Kilkenny, then 62 years old.

Roaring 40s the golden age for GAA managers

But if you go back . . . when Barry-Murphy had his first stint as Cork senior hurling manager, he won the All-Ireland with them in 1999, when he was 45. The manager he beat that day won his first All-Ireland senior title the following year, when he was 46: that was Brian Cody.

While bracing myself for a flood of calls from inter-county managers whose ages fall outside the 40-46 bracket, it does seem striking. Granted, the sample size is small, and you could also argue that winning the All-Ireland is itself a narrow enough gauge of success.

But in terms of managers with a connection to players in their 20s, this age bracket could be the focus of many a county board next autumn and winter.

McCarthy forged his own destiny

Roaring 40s the golden age for GAA managers

Kudos to Eoin O’Callaghan, who did his customarily excellent job last Friday in these pages with an obituary of the late Paul McCarthy.

It’s fair to say that all of Cork was shocked last week when news filtered through of McCarthy’s sudden passing.

He was the embodiment of a robust centre-half in appearance, the kind of figure who seems invulnerable as he built a terrific career in professional soccer with Wycombe Wanderers, Brighton and Oxford United in particular.

Almost 30 years ago I remember another contest, in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, when McCarthy was a key figure as the North Mon won the Corn Uí Mhuirí against Coláiste Chroist Rí against all odds; the southside school rattled the Mon crossbar with virtually the last kick of the ball, but the cup went over the bridge nevertheless.

It was good last week to see McCarthy remembered for his own playing days, and not as an adjunct to his famous contemporary, Roy Keane.

He was his own man and made his own way. Condolences to his family.

Ar dheis De go raibh se.

Sentiment in short supply

Roaring 40s the golden age for GAA managers

Business makes decisions based on business reasons, consternation follows.

On the way home in the car the other evening I heard the great Johnny Giles on the radio discussing Leicester City’s decision to sack manager Claudio Ranieri. Several times Giles said that football was ‘a cruel game’ - sometimes he went as far as ‘a very cruel game’ - with the air of a man who’s seen that opinion made flesh many times.

Leicester’s Premier League title win last year was variously described as a breath of fresh air, an extraordinary adventure, a once in a lifetime event, a miracle . . . but describing something in those terms implies that normally events don’t turn out in that way.

That usually the race is to the swift. That the miracle doesn’t occur. That the ordinary happens more often than the extraordinary.

When something disrupts the accepted script, why be surprised when matters return to the norm soon afterwards, as in the dismissal of manager Ranieri?

Applaud Leicester City for having the good sense to remind us of the quotidian. There was a danger we might assume that romantic exceptionalism might become expected, so more power to the owners of the club for behaving the way we expect.

Only a few months ago we were told that those owners’ spirituality, and in particular their devotion to the Buddhist monks of Wat Traimit Withayaram Woraviharn (Golden Buddha) Temple in Bangkok, was central to winning the Premier League.

Great to see those same owners now behaving the way heartless capitalists are generally supposed to act, and karma be damned.

You come at the king, you best not miss

Anyone who visits this corner of the paper regularly knows the fondness in these parts for the great Vladimir Nabokov, so when I saw The Feud: Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson and the End of a Beautiful Friendship, it looked a winner.

I was drawn to its account of the way people got sucked into the arguments and counter-arguments between Nabokov and Wilson over the former’s translation of Eugene Onegin.

Anyway, one of those people was a Harvard professor described as “a personage of almost Gogolian gravamen,” Alexander Gerschenkron.

When Gerschenkron made some points about the book, Nabokov didn’t retaliate. He did hit back eventually by including a mocking portrait Gerschenkron in a novel, but the academic’s putdown was magisterial. Rung by the New York Times and asked about his depiction in the book, Gerschenkron simply said, “A small man’s revenge.”


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