WE HAVE only reached the quarter-finals of this year’s GAA senior hurling championship but already four managers have departed the inter-county scene. While the decision to leave was their own, a variety of circumstances contributed to their departure.
Senior inter-county team managers enjoy an extremely high profile. That can vary from county to county, but irrespective of the degree of success enjoyed by the team the manager is subject to ever-growing scrutiny.
We are well-used to reading and hearing comments in the print, radio and TV media on the performance of the team and its manager. That’s an acceptable part of Gaelic games coverage.
We may not always agree with what is being written or said, but at least we know the individuals who are making the comments.
Contrast that with those who hide behind the anonymity of message boards and social media. Their comments can often be ill-informed and deeply offensive to players, team managers and even the occasional official.
Now Twitter has emerged as the latest technology where comments on every aspect of the GAA are popping up all over the place. Unlike message boards, the identity of the Twitter user is generally known and the message is picked up instantly.
Twitter was five years old on July 5. That first day 224 Tweets were sent. Today, a Tweet is sent every one tenth of a second.
Media hacks and particularly those working on programmes such as The Sunday Game now have an instant source of news and gossip. That’s bad news for players and managers!
Little editorial control
Judging by recent programmes there would appear to be little editorial control over the choice of Twitter comments read out on-air. The print media appears to have taken the same stance, but somehow hearing the message had a more profound impact than the written format.
With Message Boards the opportunity exists (but maybe it is not always taken) for a moderator to tone down the original message. Twitter is different.
Once an individual who has access to a Smartphone posts his/her message it is instantly received by anyone who has signed up to receive messages from that individual. There is no moderation, no control, just potential fall-out.
While Twitter has brought a whole new dimension to sports reporting, perhaps the negatives outdo the positives. Only time will tell!
Most inter-county players are smart enough to realise that negative comments via Twitter are ill-advised. Along with team managers, they realise that the technology is now being used to undermine and criticise performances.
Cork’s loss to Galway on Saturday week drew the following instant reaction (via Twitter) from former player Diarmuid O’Sullivan: “Yes players are accountable but when you see lack of obvious coaching over several games and they are not addressed it costs you big prizes”.
Former Laois footballer, Colm Parkinson, also took to his Smartphone to post an instant rebuke of his county’s football manager Justin McNulty: “Laois were a disgrace ..... McNulty has to go ..... only a league manager, won’t pick Portlaoise lads ..... enough said!.”
These comments are coming from ex-players who, who knows, may have their own agenda. They are best ignored, but they are surely sweet music to the ears of journalists and match analysts.
Some day a Twitter comment will land an individual in big trouble. This is one aspect of technology in which discretion is advised.
Four confirmed departures
I opened this piece commenting on the recent departure of a number of inter-county managers. These included Joe Dooley (Offaly), Brendan Fennelly (Laois), Ger O’Loughlin (Clare) and Colm Bonner (Wexford).
None of the departures could be deemed a surprise.
Joe Dooley made some progress in Offaly, but, sadly, the county’s emerging talent appears to be limited. He enjoyed the respect of his players, but had to endure much hardship with injuries.
The hullaballoo regarding the availability of O’Connor Park, Tullamore for training some weeks ago was something Dooley could have done without, but by then Joe’s bags were being packed. His side almost caused a surprise against Cork, but the gods did not smile on Dooley and his charges.
Brendan Fennelly’s departure from Laois was always on the cards following the fall-out from their big defeat to Cork. It was a frustrating year for Brendan with only some of his squad prepared to make the necessary commitment.
Most frustrating of all was the failure of some players to answer the county’s call. All of this left Fennelly attempting to restore the fortunes of his adopted county with one hand tied behind his back. The outcome was predictable.
I suspect Colm Bonner left the helm in Wexford a frustrated man. His tenure was disappointing. It is difficult to know if any progress was made there over recent years.
Wexford hurling fortunes are currently at a low ebb. The high expectations built around this year’s under-21 side evaporated against Dublin last week. If the Model County is to have better days ahead with its hurlers, it will need to look a lot deeper than the appointment of a new senior team manager.
Ger O’Loughlin was unfortunate in that he arrived at the helm in Clare at a time when the team was in major transition. A number of senior players who had plenty more to contribute to the cause jumped ship just as O’Loughlin took charge.
To add insult to injury two of those senior players won Munster intermediate hurling championship medals last week as part of a Clare side that defeated Limerick.
O’Loughlin was left with little choice but to blood many young players. It turned out to be a case of too many, too soon. Clare has plenty of talented hurlers and they may yet emerge as a seriously competitive side in a few years.
The county’s choice of team manager to replace O’Loughlin will be crucial. Is anyone better equipped than Davy Fitzgerald to rebuild the Banner into a serious force again?
So, four managers down and the likelihood is that more will follow. Kevin Ryan may feel he has achieved all he can with Carlow, while Ger Monan is unlikely to get another term with Down.
Dinny Cahill’s second stint with Antrim has generally been disappointing, but the solution to Antrim’s difficulties must come from within. Dinny and his side-kick Ollie Baker (Clare) know their hurling, but right now Antrim’s array of talent is modest compared to previous years.
The spotlight will probably fall on Cork more than any other county. Denis Walsh’s term is up, but there is a view that he should be given another year or two. Cork hurling is in transition.
Walsh has brought in some new talent and next year will see many more new faces, irrespective of who is in charge.
The turmoil which preceded Walsh’s appointment was always going to make his task a difficult one. With a former player now questioning his managerial ability, Walsh has to consider whether he really wants to contemplate another term at the helm of Cork hurling.