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golden touch A look back at the 12 managers who bagged the same at their first attempt

We look at 12 managers to bag Sam in first year

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Jim Gavin won in his debut season with Dublin and later went on to claim five on the bounce

Jim Gavin won in his debut season with Dublin and later went on to claim five on the bounce

Jim Gavin won in his debut season with Dublin and later went on to claim five on the bounce

COVID-19 could last longer than the careers of some GAA inter-county football managers, such is the current rate of attrition.

Ten counties have new bosses at the helm this year, though only six of them are rookies.

Kerry's Jack O'Connor, Glenn Ryan (Kildare), James McCartan (Down) and Colin Kelly (Wicklow) have previously managed at this level.

With the exception of O'Connor, who managed the Kingdom to All-Ireland wins in 2004, 2006 and 2009, it is doubtful if the others have given a second thought to the prospects of winning an All-Ireland in their debut season.

Yet statistically they probably have a better chance of hitting the jackpot in their first season than at any time during their tenure.

This is a phenomenon unique to Gaelic football.

Since the cult of the team manager arrived in the mid-1970s, 12 rookie bosses have guided their teams to All-Ireland success in their debut season.

It is a remarkable strike rate, given how difficult it is to reach the summit of Sam Maguire success.

The ratio compares favourably to hurling, where only seven managers (see table 1) have managed to hit the jackpot in their first season.

After a lull due to Dublin's dominance of the All-Ireland series, the era of the first-time winner returned with Dessie Farrell (2020) and Tyrone's joint-managers Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan (2021) winning in their first season.

In this special feature we recall the 12 managers who succeeded at the first attempt and examine the prospects of the ten newcomers emulating them.

Billy Morgan, Cork (1973)

Morgan was effectively treble-jobbing in 1973; he was goalkeeper, team captain and coach, though he had no role in the selection of the team.

After his playing career ended, he managed Cork to win back-to-back titles in 1989 and '90.

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Kevin Heffernan, Dublin (1974)

The cult of the team manager in the GAA began with Kevin Heffernan.

He transformed the fortunes of Dublin football, and arguably the GAA as well, with a 'Roy of the Rovers' campaign in 1974.

He went on to manage Dublin to All-Ireland wins in 1976 and 1983.

Mick O'Dwyer, Kerry (1975)

Mick O'Dwyer famously managed a team of bachelors to a shock win over the defending champions Dublin in the 1975 All-Ireland final.

It was to be the first of eight All-Ireland successes he achieved with his native county in 12 seasons.

Tony Hanahoe, Dublin (1977)

The Dublin team captain took on the role of player-manager after Kevin Heffernan's surprise decision to step aside after Dublin had beaten Kerry in the 1976 All-Ireland final.

Hanahoe was at the helm when Dublin beat the Kingdom in the famous 1977 All-Ireland semi-final and then hammered Armagh in the final.

John O'Mahony, Galway (1998)

The Ballaghaderreen man managed his native Mayo in the 1989 All-Ireland final.

He later coached Leitrim to a historic win in the Connacht Championship in 1994.

O'Mahony finally reached the summit in his first season with Galway, when the Tribesmen won their first All-Ireland since 1966. He won a second title with Galway in 2001.

Joe Kernan, Armagh (2002)

Joe Kernan famously scored two goals for Armagh in their heavy defeat to Dublin in the 1977 All-Ireland final.

He later managed Crossmaglen Rangers to All-Ireland club success and took over an Armagh team which had threatened to make the breakthrough for a couple of seasons.

They finally reached the Promised Land in his first season in charge with a memorable breakthrough All-Ireland final win over Kerry.

Mickey Harte, Tyrone (2003)

Mickey Harte had guided his native Tyrone to All-Ireland minor (1998) and U-21 (2001 and 2002) wins before taking over as senior boss.

Harte managed Tyrone to an historic first Sam Maguire success when beat next-door-neighbours and defending champions Armagh in the final.

Under Harte's guidance the Red Hand went on to win two more titles in 2005 and 2008 with final wins over Kerry.

Jack O'Connor, Kerry (2004)

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Kerry boss Jack O'Connor celebrates the title in 2004

Kerry boss Jack O'Connor celebrates the title in 2004

Kerry boss Jack O'Connor celebrates the title in 2004


Not only did O'Connor win an All-Ireland in his first season as boss of the Kingdom in 2004, he repeated the trick five years later on his second coming.

Could he do it for a third time in July?

Though Jack never won an All-Ireland medal on the field of play he has delivered more All-Ireland senior titles (3) than any Kerry manager since Mick O'Dwyer.

Pat O'Shea, Kerry (2007)

Pat O'Shea succeeded Jack O'Connor as Kerry boss after the latter stepped down in 2006.

He helped the county win back-to-back titles for the first time since the O'Dwyer era.

Jim Gavin, Dublin (2013)

Jim Gavin guided the Dubs back to the summit in 2013.

After being beaten by Donegal in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final, they didn't lose another championship game under Gavin, winning an unprecedented five All-Ireland on the spin under his baton.

Dessie Farrell, Dublin (2020)

Dessie Farrell had the unenviable task of taking over from Gavin.

But, in the strangest of championships played behind closed doors, Farrell became the fourth Dublin manager to guide his county to an All-Ireland win in his first season at the helm.

Brian Dooher/Feargal Logan, (inset) Tyrone (2021)


Few predicted 12 months ago that Tyrone would end up as All-Ireland champions.

And after conceding six goals to Kerry in the league semi-final in June, their chances of summer glory looked even more remote.

But in one of the great red emptive stories in the GAA Tyrone came back to secure the county's first All-Ireland win in 11 seasons.

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