More give than take?

THERE has been plenty of talk about managers from the top people in the GAA for the last number of months, and for all the wrong reasons.

In Munster you have five men who have won All-Ireland medals at the helm: Denis Walsh (Cork), Donal O’Grady (Limerick), Davy Fitzgerald (Waterford), Ger Sparrow O’Loughlin (Clare) and Declan Ryan (Tipperary).

Over in Leinster you have Brian Cody (Kilkenny), Colm Bonnar (Wexford), Joe Dooley (Offaly) and Anthony Daly (Dublin) — again, all with All-Ireland medals.

Some of those are managing their home counties, some are brought in from outside, but all are doing a good job.

The criticism that’s coming from the top in the GAA talks only about what they’re getting — what about what they’re giving? Take the successful Clare teams of the late 1990s, and look at what those players are giving back. Three inter-county managers are doing it presently — Daly, Davy Fitzgerald and Sparrow. Then you look below that — Cyril Lyons with Clare U21s, Jim McInerney with Tulla, Fergie Touhy with Knockainey in Limerick, Brian Lohan with Patrickswell, Stephen McNamara with Faughs in Dublin. All those players from one team.

People are talking about outside managers as if they fell out of trees — these guys are giving up their time in all kinds of weather, to progress teams. It’s easy for administrators from on high to criticise, but what are they doing? Look at Liam Dunne in Oulart-The Ballagh, look at Martin Storey with the Wexford minors, look at the work being done by these guys in their own clubs, before they ever went to others.

We hear about all the ex-hurlers now playing golf — well, all those guys named above are giving back to the GAA. Look at the Fennelly brothers from Ballyhale and how much they’ve given to so many teams in different counties. We’re looking for men to spread the gospel, and when they do, they’re criticised — what’s going on? Instead of criticising such individuals, the GAA should be praising them.

According to the GAA chiefs, money is the problem, but that’s wrong. Guys are getting expenses, which they’re more than entitled to, but they should be getting a lot more than that. Look at Anthony Daly, what he’s done for Dublin, at Davy winning a Munster with Waterford last year, at Donal O’Grady, after turning around the fortunes of Limerick in half a season. How much is that worth to each of those counties? Where are all these critics when these managers are driving through hail and rain to get to winter training sessions, when they’re on the sidelines in all kinds of weather, when they’re meeting the other selectors burning the midnight oil?

Look also at the role the managers play now in publicising the games, in talking to the media, in spreading the game that way — what value to you place on that? What has Brian Cody been worth to the GAA? Long may he and all those guys, outside or not, continue doing what they’re doing.

Maybe we should even look at increasing the roles of former players; maybe they should also be getting involved in administration, in marketing, and isn’t that where the real money is being made in the GAA? How many administrators in the GAA are also getting big expenses, but how many of those have All-Ireland medals, how many of them will the young people identify with?

I’m not saying you need an All-Ireland medal to be a good administrator, or even a good manager, nor am I saying the current administrators are not doing a good job. I am saying they should recognise all the good work being done by outside managers, and stop this criticising.

We should be doing more to bring ex-players back into the fold, even as referees or as umpires; they know the game, they understand the game, they can bring all of that to the table.

Everyone learns from someone; young managers learn from older, guys serve their apprenticeship — someone in Waterford is now learning from Davy Fitzgerald, someone in Dublin from Anthony Daly, someone in Limerick from Donal O’Grady. Going back to that Clare team, they got so much out of it as players, they learned so much at that time about overcoming huge odds, now they’re giving back. The character it took, it also built.

I’m not saying Clare are unique, but I know those lads best, and I know the sacrifices they made in their time as players, I know the sacrifices they’re making again as managers. Everyone talks about players and the work they do, but managers do a lot more.

A player turns up, trains hard, puts in the effort but everything is laid on for him. For the manager, it’s almost 24/7. Without the players we’d have no games, but without the managers, what kind of teams, what kind of games would be left? The GAA has never been as professional in team preparation as it is today — most of that is thanks to those new managers.


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