Inter-county management is a tough station. The facts speak for themselves this season.
John Maughan and Roscommon parted company after falling out of love in the spring and already this summer vacancy signs have been posted in the football HR departments of Cavan, Longford, Leitrim, Offaly and Meath.
Lest we forget, the hurlers of Waterford weren’t long giving Justin McCarthy the heave-ho when things did not go according to plan in the Munster championship.
Add into the mix names like Ger Loughnane, Liam Kearns, Mickey Ned O’Sullivan, Paddy Crozier, and Brian McIver who are all mulling over their futures in the Bainisteoir’s bib and you can see how the seats on the merry-go-round keep becoming vacant.
It is easy to be an expert outside the fence, sitting high in the stand on match day or like the growing number of bloggers who have the answers for everything and anything from behind their cloaks of anonymity and their fancy pseudonyms.
While everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, some of the criticism and views expressed in cyber space can be unfounded and factually incorrect. Still, the view taken in never-never land seems to be: “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story”.
Unrealistic demands and team management go hand in hand and there is no getting away from that fact. Unless your team in on a winning roll, there is always something you feel you could have done better.
Ironically it is two of the biggest names in inter-county management - Pat O’ Shea and John O’Mahony - who will feel the hot breath of supporter pressure on their collars this weekend if their sides lose.
Kerry are aiming for the famed three-in-a-row and after their extremely poor second half display against Cork in the Munster final they will have to ramp things up considerably if they are to see off Monaghan. It looks likely at this stage that O’ Shea will select young Tommy Walsh and play him in the full-forward line beside Kieran Donaghy and Colm Cooper. It is a gamble, but with the likes of Paul Galvin and Declan O’ Sullivan unavailable to take up starting jerseys, it is a roll of the dice that O’ Shea looks likely to make.
Kerry have qualified for every All-Ireland quarter-final since the introduction of the new championship system in 2001 and a loss on Sunday would be seen as a major underachievement. The reality is that unless Kerry win the Sam Maguire again, 2008 will be seen as a failure which is a very high bar to be expected to jump.
At least O’Shea and his team know what is expected of them and while Monaghan have the wind at their backs and a lot of people fancy them to put a dagger in Kerry’s heart, Kerry in Croke Park are a queer detail.
Mayo’s John O’Mahony, too, will know that his charges badly need to produce a top performance this weekend. The former Leitrim and Galway boss has been around the block long enough to know that the public can be fickle and after a woeful first-half performance in the Connacht final he will be keen to get his charges off to a flyer in Croke Park this Saturday when they take on Tyrone.
Team selection will not be easy and with injury doubts over Ronan McGarrity and Trevor Mortimer there is plenty of speculation about who could come into the starting XV if those two men are out.
At least Trevor Howley, who is a solid defender, is available for selection and gives the management team real options at the back. Add in names like Peadar Gardiner and Aiden Kilcoyne who both impressed when introduced against Galway and you can see why selecting the best Mayo 15 to start won’t be easy.
Mayo have a very good recent championship record against Tyrone and they beat them in the All-Ireland semi-final of 1989 (under O’Mahony ) and the quarter-final of 2004.
That game in 2004 ended 0-16 to 1-09 with guys like Alan Dillon, David Brady, James Nallen, Ronan McGarrity and the banished Ciaran McDonald all impressing enormously.
Ironically Mayo went on to compete in that All-Ireland final of 2004 and lost to Kerry, whereas Tyrone beat the Kingdom in the 2005 final. Go figure.
Tyrone were less than impressive in their four-point win over over 13-man Westmeath last Saturday afternoon in Omagh. They did enough to win, but there was nothing in that display to make anyone believe Mayo playing in top gear could not defeat the Red Handers.
Some Mayo supporters saw O’Mahony as the messiah returning to lead them to national success when he became manager in 2006. However, thus far the only sides that they have beaten in championship football are Sligo and Cavan whereas victory over a marquee name like Tyrone would do much to quell any unrest.