Who would want to be a County Manager in the GAA these days? What can they look forward to? Attacks left,right and centre from all sides …. ranging from the media (led by ‘the Sunday Game’ firing squad) , to disgruntled squad players, ex- players, former managers, ‘fans’ in the stands.
Then of course again on Twitter, Facebook and online sports forums, often from ‘supporters’ totally unconnected with the GAA ,many of whom have not attended a game of hurling or football since their schooldays if at all.
Already in recent weeks we have seen Cavan’s Val Andrews stepping down. Meath’s Seamus McEnaney and Tipperary’s John Evans plus Waterford’s Michael Ryan have come under fire and all that before even the Championship season begins.
Conor Hayes has seen the good days and the bad since as captain he lifted the Liam McCarthy Cup for Galway in 1988 .
In a ‘hard hitting interview’ in the Examiner, Hayes lets rip at management and players alike. So how does he see the immediate future, with Sunday’s crucial Allianz League game against Dublin in Tullamore just a few days away? :
“Twenty-four years without a senior All-Ireland is far too long. And it’s 2005 since we were in a semi-final and standards are dropping all the time. This game on Sunday is crucial. If we lose, we’re behind Dublin and the other teams in Division 1A next year. Galway are still two or three years off even challenging for an All-Ireland and the gulf between Galway and Kilkenny is not going to close that much in a couple of months.”
He is particularly scathing in his views on players being played ‘out of position’ saying:
“A lot of things are not adding up but there is a lack of stability in the team. Too many young lads have come in at the one time and players not playing in key positions is one of the issues that management has to look at. I’d have Shane Kavanagh at full-back for stability and drop Fergal Moore back to the corner, with David Collins out to the wing. Lads should be played in their best positions and Collins is struggling at full.”
Hayes professed to be “amazed” when Cunningham took off Iarla Tannian and Damien Hayes before half-time in Kilkenny .With less than 30 mins on the clock, Hayes noted that Cunningham had withdrawn his entire full-forward line against Kilkenny, as by then James Regan had also departed.
In a wide ranging interview with the ‘Examiner’ Hayes insisted: “You destabilise the team by doing that. Taking off all of the full-forward line causes instability and they looked a bit lost in the second half for ideas”.
“The worrying thing going into the championship is that you could almost pick the Kilkenny, Cork and Tipp championship teams, maybe Waterford too. But you’d have to think about the Galway team, when you should have 10 or 12 positions nailed down by now”.
The Kiltormer and Galway legend went on : I’ve seen Galway in every league game this year but if you asked me who’s going to be full-back or centre-back for the championship, I couldn’t be certain.”
Hayes’ strong words will have come as no surprise to followers of Galway hurling for only last weekend he had been equally outspoken when interviewed in the ‘Independent’ . The players then also came in for severe criticism .
On that occasion Hayes – the last man to manage Galway in an All Ireland final back in 2005, albeit he resigned a year later – talked of a “culture of excuses” in Galway hurling. “People will be down my throat now when they read this,”
“I don’t care, let them talk away. I’ve seen it at close quarters.”
He believes that the rot set in as early as last year’s Leinster final against Kilkenny, before Cunnigham took up the reins last November.
“In my opinion, they literally walked away from that game,” he says. “Apart from Damien Hayes, I felt they didn’t put up any kind of a fight at all.
“Looking at them, I don’t think they tried that day. And there’s nothing worse than not trying.”
So woe betide Anthony Cunningham and his players if Galway should be relegated and then crash out of the Leinster and All Ireland championships early in the season. They will surely be anxious that Joe Canning regains full fitness before the crucial Championship games.
Who indeed would want to be a GAA county manager in Ireland especially especially knowing the GAA’s latest proposals re payments to managers?