Plenty to ponder if hurling's managerial merry-go-round shifts gears

Davy Fitzgerald may be the only high profile managerial departure of the Championship but uncertainty surrounds the future plans of many men he patrolled the sidelines against in recent years.
Plenty to ponder if hurling's managerial merry-go-round shifts gears

WAITING GAME: After stepping down as Wexford manager it remains to be seen what the future holds for him in terms of a possible return to a role in hurling management. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

It's discredited now, but there was a time when train schedules took a lot of the blame for World War One.

With millions of troops to move to their frontiers, nations had to create intricate mobilisation plans which leaned heavily on their train systems.

It wasn’t a case of just booking a few seats on the 5.30, either. These vast plans couldn’t be reversed once they began to grind into action, and as soon as one nation saw their neighbours loading armed men into carriages...

I’m aware that an implicit comparison between a random county board and the Austro-Hungarian Empire may not be sustainable, but there’s a sense of organisations looking warily at each other this week in the hurling world, trying to gauge whether or not there’ll be some mobilisation of managers to the frontiers and beyond.

Yet a sober assessment reveals just one top-flight county which has seen its manager step down — Davy Fitzgerald’s departure from Wexford leaves just one confirmed absence.

Elsewhere the picture is just muddy enough to encourage speculation.

Shane O’Neill in Galway and Mattie Kenny in Dublin have come to the end of two- and three-year terms respectively, while Liam Sheedy’s three years with Tipperary are also up.

And here the gears in the speculation machine begin to click into action.

Will Davy Fitzgerald return to Clare to consider his future or to get involved in the Banner as a director of hurling?

Will he get back on the managerial merry-go-round?

If so, where?

Will Liam Sheedy step down?

If so, will the manager who put his side out of the championship, Liam Cahill of Waterford, take over from him?

Will Shane O’Neill and Mattie Kenny call it a day and send us into an utter frenzy of speculation?

First things first.

The pandemic and lockdown make a powerful argument for managers looking to have a regular preseason in which to impress their game plans on players — and looking for one more year in which to do so after the last two fractured seasons.

It’s not cut and dried, therefore, that managers at the end of their agreed term will bow out as would have been expected in previous years.

Yet we do have one significant role to fill. Wexford need a new manager. If someone with inter-county experience was involved with a club in the county he would certainly have an advantage, and Derek McGrath, of Waterford and this parish, has been helping Faythe Harriers in recent years.

The speculation about Liam Sheedy is understandable, particularly as this is his second stint in charge of the county.

Factor in Waterford manager Liam Cahill’s frank assessment of the situation in Tipperary after his side’s All-Ireland quarter-final win and Cahill’s succession looks written in the stars, almost.

This line of thinking doesn’t take into account Cahill’s success with Waterford — an All-Ireland final and semi-final (at the time of writing) in successive seasons is a formidable record and not likely to be abandoned lightly. Nor does it factor in the likely ambitions of those within Tipperary.

For instance, one of Sheedy’s selectors, Darragh Egan of Kiladangan, is highly regarded within the county and would offer Tipperary continuity if they enter a period of transition.

Elsewhere, if Mattie Kenny and Shane O’Neill were to step down there would be no shortage of candidates either.

Eddie Brennan’s work with Laois has not gone unnoticed in the capital, for instance, while Galway’s underage success has given several coaches within the county good experience.

However, Galway also brings us back to where we started. Davy Fitzgerald has been linked with Galway in the past and managed newly-retired Joe Canning with Limerick Institute of Technology: if Shane O’Neill stepped down would Fitzgerald make a phone call to Portumna for a reunion?

Canny readers will see the ifs and woulds in the preceding sentence, and the caveats sprinkled further up the page.

We may have to stick to World War One a while longer if we want certainty.

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