Managing at the top level now a largely thankless task
At the time of going to press last night, it was assumed the weekend’s final round of Football Championship Super 8s had passed off without any further managerial resignations or departures. A spate of bainisteoirs have handed in their bibs of late, with new fewer than 12 counties across the two codes on the search for new managers for 2020.
What it underlines again is the insane — and largely thankless — levels of commitment required to oversee an inter-county team these days, not least for those in counties where success is not a realistic consideration.
Paul Galvin has filled the Wexford vacancy, but the football set-ups in Monaghan, Fermanagh, Kildare, Tipperary, Laois, Derry, Wicklow and London are still without a figurehead for next season. And in hurling there are high profile vacancies in Cork, Waterford, Offaly, and Westmeath.
Cian O’Neill has finally taken a break after 14 consecutive seasons in an inter-county role. An exceptional stint, but one that will be rarer in the future. Asking which is the most attractive of those hot-seats pre-supposes there’s an attraction there at all.
More Super 8 fixes needed
Had Tyrone and Dublin so wished, yesterday in Healy Park need not have been a dead rubber. But when the teams were revealed, or leaked to be more precise, on Friday night it was clear that the intent just wasn’t going to be the same.
And when Dublin made six late changes to de-familiarise their line-up it was clear what we were going to get.
What could be done to avoid such situations in the future? A break of two weeks from the end of the Super 8s to the All-Ireland semi-finals may have allowed Dublin and Tyrone to go at this game with more of their first team men.
Also, the time has come for the Croke Park round to become the ‘neutral’ round, including for Dublin. If the Super 8 is to survive beyond its third and final experimental year in 2020, more changes are needed to follow the call earlier this year to give provincial champions home advantage first day out.
Will Super 8s remain as is for final ‘trial’ season in 2020?
Seeing Mayo lost both to Roscommon in Connacht, and then Kerry in the Super 8s, Donegal’s first defeat of the championship season and consequent elimination from ther Football Championship might seem a little harsh — especially considering their deciding fixture against Mayo took place on the road.
Last year, Declan Bonner’s side had to take on Dublin at the ‘neutral’ Croke Park and then make the trip to Roscommon’s Hyde Park before welcoming Tyrone to Ballybofey.
Suggestions have been made in recent weeks to give the provincial champions some sort of reward, with Tomás Ó Sé suggesting on TV the provincial champions be granted two home Super 8 fixtures, with the clash against the other champions taking place in a neutral venue.
Another former Kerry star, Kieran Donaghy, is of the opinion that this fixture be taken out of Croke Park, with, say, Donegal this season locking horns with Kerry at Pearse Stadium for example.
The Super 8s experiment is now two-thirds of the way through its three-year cycle and although there’s been occasional teething problems, having matches later in the season at packed provincial grounds is certainly something that has worked.
Castlebar was heaving Saturday, although some Donegal fans might not agree having to face into tailbacks of up to six miles on occasion as they made their way south. The journey home was hardly soothing either.
How many of Cork’s U20 winners are ready for senior step up?
All-Ireland silverware is, of course, important, but the real value of Saturday’s U20 football win for Cork cannot be measured as we must wait and see how many of this group can successfully transition to senior level in the years ahead.
There has been plenty of commentary in the past about the relatively low number of players from the five Cork teams to win a Munster U21 championship this decade (2011, ‘12, ‘13, ‘14, and ‘16) who went on to establish themselves at the top grade. Too many were involved for a season or two and then disappeared.
Seven of the side that played in the 2016 All-Ireland U21 final saw championship action this summer and that’s the kind of return Cork football people will be looking for from Saturday’s All-Ireland winning team.
The big question is whether they can show the same consistency and have the same impact at senior level as they did in recent months.
Corner-forward Damien Gore played league earlier this year before returning to the U20 set-up and one would imagine that he and fellow inside forwards Mark Cronin and Cathal O’Mahony will make the step up next year. Brian Hartnett, Seán Meehan, Maurice Shanley, and Peter O’Driscoll are others who could well progress up the ladder.