Tom McGlinchey did not recognise the number on his phone. On the other end was then Waterford chairman, Tom Cunningham. The offer was to take charge of the Waterford senior footballers.
McGlinchey didn’t need to be asked twice.
McGlinchey’s last foray into top flight management was in 2003. In the interim he’d overseen the Limerick minor and U21 teams and enjoyed a successful spell with Ballylanders back in 2007. But the hope was always there of a return to the big time and the bright lights. News of McGlinchey’s appointment surfaced late October, a virtually unknown figure in Déise circles. Hardly surprising given it had been 11 years since he patrolled the sidelines of Thurles and Croke Park as Tipperary bainisteoir.
“The desire to coach at the top level never goes away,” says the Mourneabbey native. “When I finished playing I got involved in coaching straight away. I never wanted to cut ties. I was involved with Limerick underage teams, but to get back involved at senior was always an ambition. Luckily enough I was asked by Waterford and I liked the job on offer. I was keen and I am keen to see what I can bring to the table.”
Now stationed in Murroe, McGlinchey was working in the Garda College in Templemore when offered the role as Tipp boss.
“I started out coaching the Clyda Rovers U8’s and worked my way up from the bottom. When working in the Garda College I got involved with Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cup teams.
“Colm O’Flaherty took over from Colm Browne as Tipperary manager in 1999. Colm Browne had worked in the Garda College and recommended me to Colm O’Flaherty as a trainer. When he left then in 2000 I was asked to take the reins. When you are young and naïve you don’t think twice about taking such a role.”
And of course a word on the 2002 Munster decider – the fixture that sticks in his craw most. In the drawn game Tipperary led 1-13 to 2-7 with 10 minutes left but Cork stormed back to force a replay.
In the second outing, Cork hammered Tipperary 1-23 to 0-7 but controversy erupted when it was discovered the winners had used six subs. “It was one that got away from us. We were huge underdogs, but we knew we had hugely talented players. There was huge potential. We were very unfortunate on the day. There was controversy over the replayed game with Cork using six subs. It wasn’t until the Wednesday morning after the replay did we know we would be going out to play Mayo the following weekend. We put up a great fight and lost by only three points. They were great years.”
McGlinchey didn’t enlist, nor did he require, a strength and conditioning expert at the turn of the millennium. He’s not even sure they existed. It was the first appointment he made for the 2015 season. Top-table demands have increased tenfold.
“The emphasis on strength and conditioning has reached dizzying heights. This area of the game was very much in its infancy 10, 15 years ago. We certainly didn’t have a strength and conditioning coach 12 or 13 years ago.
“Fellas were doing their own gym programs when I was involved with Tipperary, but it would be nowhere near as exact or scientific as the programs you see the Waterford lads working off these days. The way the game has evolved has seen focus shift to strength and conditioning, diet and nutrition. 10 years from now another area of sports science will come to the fore and take priority. I, however, am still most concerned by the basics. I said to the players recently that you can be as fit as you like, work as hard as possible in the gym but the name of the game is putting the ball between the sticks. The basics have to be right.”
He added: “Back then I had two or three selectors, a kitman, doctor and physio. Now you have your strength and conditioning coach, your physical fitness coach, while you will seek the advice of a dietician, sports scientist and nutritionist at some stage during the year. Statistics too have massively evolved. Saying that, our backroom team wouldn’t half compare to the likes of Cork.”
As for his goals with Waterford in 2015? “The main aim is to get out of Division 4. We won’t hide that fact. Division 4 is a minefield. Longford are back down there having played in Division 2 in 2013. The division is like a revolving door.”
He continued: “You take the top three teams in Waterford — The Nire, Stradbally and Ballinacourty — they have all competed at the top level of the Munster Club championship. That doesn’t translate nor has it translated to intercounty. The players are aware they have to start winning to get the recognition they crave (Waterford have won only one championship game since 2011).
“If we can do well in the league we might get some support behind us and that may propel us into a good championship. It won’t be easy to the change mind-set. I wouldn’t say there is apathy. The Waterford football people are as dedicated as those you would find in the football heartlands of Kerry and Cork. They just have been starved of success. We’re not promising miracles, but we are setting out to achieve progress, to move up the ladder.”
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