Managerial merry-go-round gathering speed

Football managerial revolution — it’s been coming for quite some time now.

However, what unfolds in the coming weeks and months shouldn’t be misrepresented.

Sure, the number of managerial casualties — augmented by Jack O’Connor this past weekend — is set to hit an all-time high this autumn with a figure in the low to mid teens.

But it was due considering the low numbers these last couple of years. In 2011, there were six changes. The season before that, it was the same amount. Minimal change, really, in a notoriously cut-throat business.

It was hurling’s turn for seismic amendment last year — nine Liam MacCarthy managers from the 14 competing counties stepping aside. Now it’s football’s.

Right now, there are six vacancies with Armagh and Offaly having moved quick to replace Paddy O’Rourke and Tom Coffey with Paul Grimley and Emmet McDonnell respectively.

However, there are serious question marks over the futures of James McCartan, Liam Bradley and John Brennan.

McCartan more or less gave the game away last Saturday when he thanked his players for the last three years, while Bradley could move west and back home to take charge of Derry for Brennan, who himself is in talks with the Derry board at the moment.

Of the remaining four teams in the championship, Conor Counihan and Pat Gilroy are likely to make way at the end of the season. Now in his fifth year as Cork manager, this season has always been about unfinished business for the Aghada man. Gilroy, on the other hand, took a lot of convincing before finally agreeing to a fourth championship.

There are also doubts about the futures of Kevin Walsh, Kieran McGeeney, Micheal McDermott, Justin McNulty, Jason Ryan and Pat Flanagan.

Not all those managers will go, of course. Wexford want Ryan to stay on but want changes in his backroom team while McGeeney has another year.

Still, we’re still looking at approximately half of the country being taken over by different individuals next season. That alters the complexion of the sideline incredibly but the surprise is that counties have taken so long to get around to making switches.

The reasons? Change is no longer seen as good. While the Galway footballers had three different men over them in as many years, they are an exception. More and more county boards are happier to now give managers three-year terms as opposed to two-year ones.

There’s a slow realisation dawning on the GAA officialdom that a man can’t make his mark on a team in just two seasons (hence why McNulty, who was under pressure in May, could now get another season... Jim McGuinness is an out-and-out exception).

Is it any reason why there is so much anecdotal evidence of teams breaking the winter training ban when they have such little time to make an impression? Money is also a factor, of course. With the readies not as easily accessible as before, boards now give more thought before jettisoning men who have understood the sacrifices that have had to be made in recent times. A classic case of better the devil you know.

Then there are managers who are reluctant to leave their positions. The 60 cent a mile rate may have been sniffed at during the boom years but not anymore.

For some families, it is supplementing suffering wage packets. The sponsored car, the free mobile phone, the bit of promotional income that can be earned — they all make life that bit easier.

It’s almost got to the point where the jobs themselves are no longer discretionary ones for managers.

There’s also the fact few will ever get to this level of management again. In a study of inter-county bosses this writer was involved in five years ago, the results showed over 70% of those appointed from 1997 to 2007 haven’t managed again.

In that same 10-year time-span, over 30% never got beyond their first season at the helm but that number has dropped as boards reconcile themselves with the fact that such upheaval is unhealthy.

Between ’97 and ’07, 86 of the 116 football managers never got a second bite of the cherry while in top level hurling the proportion was 38 of 53.

In the weeks ahead many will make way either after outstaying their welcome with more never likely to enjoy the limelight again.

The pressure on the inter-county manager mightn’t be as apparent as it once was because there is no longer as much finance being pumped into teams.

However, outside managers are still popular in both Gaelic football and hurling although to a lesser extent in hurling. Between 1997 and 2007, 44% of managers across both codes were outside managers. Now that figure reads 42%.

Excluding domiciled McDermott, Peter Creedon, Maurice Horan and Paul Coggins, of the 20 football managers currently in situ nine are from outside the county compared to five from 13 in hurling.

Interestingly, since 2008, McGeeney and Ryan, each on one occasion, have been the only outside managers to bring teams to the All-Ireland semi-finals (no outside manager has reached the All-Ireland final since Mickey Moran with Mayo in 2006).

Expect football’s outsider numbers to drop again for next season as county boards take stock and realise they can’t dish out mileage expenses and other trappings that come with the gig as freely as they used to.

Meath, for one, won’t be looking beyond the county boundaries for Seamus McEnaney’s successor. The Monaghan native had to give an itemised account of what would be spent in preparing the team before he got the nod and it’s something more boards will be encouraged to ask for before making appointments.

The days of managers having financial carte blanche are quickly receding. With the exception of the big counties, the new men taking the bainisteoir bib next season do so realising that they have to cut their coat to suit the cloth.

Making more with less will be the mantra for the array of new faces about to populate the sidelines.


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