TOM McGlinchey was 28 — “just a baby,” he says — when he was appointed manager of the Tipperary football team in 2000.
On Sunday, the Cork native will attempt to stop Tipp, as he manages Waterford in the championship for the first time.
A garda based in Murroe, Co Limerick, McGlinchey has managed Ballylanders and Limerick minor and U21 sides, as well as Cahir in Tipp and the hurlers of Killaloe.
This is his first senior inter-county posting since that three-year spell with Tipp but, while some things have changed, the primary objectives remain the same.
“There’s a lot of difference in Tom McGlinchey the person, not to mind the manager,” he says.
“The big difference is that you’re learning all the time and that’s what it’s all about. There’s a great quote from Brian Cody saying that the fundamentals of the game — hurling or football — haven’t changed.
“At the end of the day, you prepare a panel of 30 players and you can put 15 of them on the field. You can have 25 backroom staff, but they won’t be able to put the ball over the bar.
“Everyone has a role and I’m delighted with the people I have. I have local selectors, local trainers, local men doing the logistics. They’re all great people and it’d be impossible to do it without them.
“The thing is, if you did have 25 people, there’d still be a job for a 26th.” The approach to manage the Déise came out of the blue.
“Any of these intercounty jobs, you don’t see a PO box number in the paper,” McGlinchey says, laughing.
“I got a call from the chairman at the time, Tom Cunningham, to see if I’d be interested in it. I met him and the board a couple of times and it appealed to me. It was great to get back involved in senior intercounty football.
“Cahir were still in the championship — obviously, as it went to Stephen’s Day — they were going well, so maybe it was that.”
Football in Waterford tends to stay out of the spotlight. Success came immediately upon McGlinchey’s appointment, though, as the county won the McGrath Cup for the first time.
“You don’t have the high pressure that Derek would have in the hurling, but then we won the McGrath Cup and expectation came with that,” he says.
“Realistically, going to Waterford, anything you won would be a bonus, so winning the McGrath Cup was fantastic. When a team like Waterford beats a team like Cork, it’s huge, no matter what the competition is.
“I was talking to the chairman, Paddy Joe Ryan. He had been going to matches for 55 years and had never seen Waterford beat Cork. That gives you a level of what you’re talking about. You could say then that it was a second-string UCC team in the final, but it was still a star-studded team and it was a final and there to be won. Those few weeks were great.”
From that high, though, Waterford ended up finishing sixth in Division 4 of the national league, winning only once, in the opening round against Wicklow. McGlinchey admits to frustration, but the figures disguise some near misses.
“We won our first game in the league and then we lost to Offaly — who went on to win it — but we played most of the game with 14 men, so that was no great disgrace.
“Our next game was at home to Carlow and we lost by two points, then we lost the next one by two points to Longford and the same against Antrim, missing a penalty in injury-time. They’re all small margins. If we had won those three games by a point each, we’d have been up near the top of the table and looking at promotion.
“It’s disappointing and it’s frustrating. I’ve no hair but, if I had, I’d be tearing it out. That said, you couldn’t question the Waterford players’ dedication or attitude. The easiest thing would be to throw in the towel and go through the motions, but their effort and application, even when they were out of the league, fellas were still fighting it out for places.”
As for Sunday and beyond, are there targets?
“You have to be realistic. What is it, since 1988, Waterford have won three Munster championship matches and a draw last year. To win a game in Munster would be a huge achievement but, again, you’re playing Tipperary.
“They’re perceived as the third-best team in Munster now. They should have beaten Cork below in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but then they had a great run in the qualifiers, lost to Galway, and obviously the U21s did very well this year; five of that team will be playing against us.
“The bookies don’t often get it wrong and they have us well priced out of the race. To put up a good show and a good performance against Tipperary — in Thurles, as well — would be a huge boost.”
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