New Offaly manager Michael Fennelly has admitted he was lukewarm on the job at first but came around to the idea after a sleepless night.
The 34-year-old Kilkenny great, who said he rejected a series of inter-county backroom team offers over the summer, and previously the Carlow camogie job, initially thought the Offaly job wasn’t for him too. But after meeting with officials and spending a night thinking about the opportunity, he reasoned it was too good to pass up.
The eight-time All-Ireland winner replaces Kevin Martin, who was sacked in May, and inherits a county that slipped down to hurling’s third tier after relegation from the Joe McDonagh Cup.
“At first, I wasn’t really in a position to do it, I thought, because I was doing a PhD and I had other bits and pieces going on and I was still playing for the club,” said Fennelly. “But then that night I couldn’t sleep thinking about it, thinking about the backroom team and what I’d do.
“The PhD was probably a big thing in it, and I have a seven or eight-month-old at home. I was thinking to myself, ‘next year I might take it a bit easy, focus on those things and do a bit of lecturing as well’. But I love challenges, I love the sporting and the coaching side of it, talking to different people about it.
“Anthony Cunningham is my partner in a leadership business which we have. I love talking to him about the whole Roscommon thing and meeting other managers. I’d know John Meyler down in Cork as well. So this came across the table to me and lit a fire in me and I suppose I couldn’t quench it, that was the thing. I got offered one or two other jobs as well but distance was a problem.
"They were probably not what I wanted either, so it just came around and I started to like the idea more and more.”
Fennelly, who quit the inter-county game in late 2017 due to persistent injuries, said he always targeted a life in management after playing.
He was part of Kildare’s backroom team this year and has been thinking like a coach since his mid-20s. “I have a book at home that I’m constantly updating and taking down notes in, reading things,” said Fennelly.
When I was 30 years of age, I was reading stuff on management and coaching and I had to stop myself because I was still a player at the time, I had to focus on myself the player and get back to making sure I was performing at my best instead of looking at the coaching and managerial side of things.
“The best manager of all time, Brian Cody — and I’m not Brian Cody and I don’t want to be Brian Cody — but a lot of things he did I would have obviously observed and taken in and wondered why he did this or that.”
Fennelly’s immediate task is to complete his backroom team and he expects to have this done in 10 days.
“Obviously we will have an Offaly person involved who has their finger on the pulse in terms of knowledge of hurlers,” he said.
“A good few people have reached out as well, people who I had met and can trust in terms of telling me who is playing well in Offaly.
I probably will bring someone from Kilkenny, someone I trust and someone I can fall back on and rely on to give good observations on me and what I am doing well and what I am not doing well.
Asked about veter and and potential retirements, Fennelly said:
“I think club level is going to dictate a lot of that. There will be targets, there will be tests in terms of fitness and strength levels, and different things like that. If players aren’t meeting those requirements, there will be conversations around that to see where you are at and what are your commitment levels and are you doing enough to be on an Offaly senior panel. It’s a big commitment and a great honour.”