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touchline fire I believe we in sport have become obsessed with the cult of the manager

We put sports managers up on pedestals far too easily without them being properly judged

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Jurgen Klopp and (inset) Mourinho and Guardiola

Jurgen Klopp and (inset) Mourinho and Guardiola

Jurgen Klopp and (inset) Mourinho and Guardiola

They say that people started dreaming a lot more during the Covid times.

Well, the other night I dreamt that Joe Schmidt had scored the winning try to bag the Rugby World Cup for Ireland, that Mick McCarthy had headed a goal to win us the soccer World Cup and James Horan had scored the vital point on the last Sunday of next July to end the now 71-year Mayo football famine.

Suddenly, I woke up out of my slumber and realised it was all, yes, just a dream.

But in recent weeks I cannot get sports managers out of my head. Hardly a day goes by that I am not fed with a constant diet of Klopp, Tuchel, Pep and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's problems at United.

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Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. REUTERS/Phil Noble

He's out of his depth is my take on it, for what it is worth.

And then there is Watford. What a basket case of a football club, which has sacked their manager after seven games this season.

Now they have just appointed their 13th manager in nine years - 'the Tinkerman' himself, Claudio Raneiri.

I wonder what would the GAA family make of a county that appointed a 69-year-old manager, as Ranieri is. Unless his surname was Cody, you can forget it.

Finally, from my management dreams, the shenanigans in Kerry are over, but there's plenty more out there.

Former Mayo star Andy Moran has now taken on Leitrim, but surely he sees it as a stepping stone to his home job one day.

Who'll get the Cork job, best of luck to the man unfortunate enough to get it. And then there's the Waterford football boss Shane Ronayne, who left the Déise after just one year, because he could not turn down his dream job, managing the Cork ladies footballers. You couldn't make it up.

Is it any wonder I am dreaming of managers and can't get them out of my head.

As I pointed out here a couple of weeks ago, no manager has ever got the winning score in a World Cup Final or an All-Ireland Final, but I believe we in sport have become obsessed with the cult of the manager.

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It's not Chelsea against City, it's Tuchel against Pep, not United v Liverpool, it is Ole v Klopp.

The GAA is becoming no different. We have James Horan's Mayo, Dessie's Dublin, Jack's Kerry. And Davy Fitz is our Jose Mourinho, for there are so many similarities between the pair.

There's usually a brilliant first year, it goes downhill after that - and it is all about Davy and Jose, and no mention at all of the team.

We put sports managers up on a pedestal far too easily, without their achievements being properly judged.

Ye Gods! Schmidt got a standing ovation on the Late Late Show, yet in a competition where there are only nine serious teams he couldn't get us to the last four.

And no Irish rugby coach has ever got us there.

Big Jack Charlton did a lot for the profile of soccer in this country, but the bottom line is that he won no serious silverware, though he did top the very first qualifying group he entered back in 1986.

Sadly, it was my own county of Kerry that kept its manager in the limelight last week.

In the deep south-west, we rarely wash our football dirty linen in public.

Yet this was an exception, for the process that ended with Jack O'Connor replacing Peter Keane became a circus.

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Peter Keane and his management team haven't been thanked publicly for their efforts by the County Board Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile

Peter Keane and his management team haven't been thanked publicly for their efforts by the County Board Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile

Peter Keane and his management team haven't been thanked publicly for their efforts by the County Board Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile

Too many people with vested interests were pushing their own agendas and as I wrote here last week, I felt sorry for Keane.

He was made the fall guy for Kerry's lack of success in recent years, when some of the reasons we have not won Sam so often of late were not within his control.

Being Kerry boss is a thankless job. There's no pay, it is almost a full-time post, and if you fail to deliver a Sam Maguire Cup, well then you are a failure.

However, I would take exception to one sentence in the press release that Peter put out last week saying his goodbyes.

He said that he had the full support of the players and that the players had passed this information on to the sub-committee charged with finding the new Kerry boss.

It didn't reflect well on Peter, it was petty and, worse, it wasn't true, because not all players offered their full support for Keane to the county board.

Pointedly, County Board Chairman Tim Murphy said that he did consult with the players while the appointment was in progress.

And let's be blunt about it. Three fellahs presented themselves for the job, Keane, O'Connor and Stephen Stack.

The latter had never managed an inter-county team, Keane had three goes at winning the All-Ireland and Jack had a CV of delivering three Sams, two of them in the opening seasons of his two terms.

By any measurement, Jack was always going to win the gig at the end of the day, no matter what way it was dressed up.

However, I offer a word of reality to Kerry football supporters.

I have watched a fair amount of Kerry club football in recent years and right now the Green and Gold have an awful lot of players of the same standard.

The days of 'the county man' being spotted easily in a Kerry field is gone - bar obvious talents such as David Clifford and Sean O'Shea.

The world of GAA managers is not hugely different to other sports as the 'faraway hills are greener' approach still works.

In 2021, 14 of the 31 counties had an outside manager. There were successes in the Allianz League - Kildare, Offaly, Derry, Louth and Antrim all got promotion with great help from outside managers.

But come the championship? The four provincial crowns and the All-Ireland were all delivered by home-grown managers.

Remember, only the late Eugene McGee and John O'Mahony have ever secured an All-Ireland for counties to which they were not native.

From this year's list of managers ten have now gone.

Most of them saw the writing on the wall, such as Terry Hyland in Leitrim or Ryan McMenamin in Fermanagh.

Whisper it quietly, but only two of the ten were actually looking to stay on, Ronan McCarthy in Cork and our own Keane.

My biggest gripe with employing outside managers is their costs, travelling and otherwise.

Not only are you employing him, but also a full back-room team.

This manager is supposed to bring success to a team - even though the county may have no great under-age structure, no proper coaching set-up and no games development programme.

These managers then find themselves with massive power over fixtures within a county and imposing media bans to further their own status.

The worst example of this came lately, but from a home-produced manager

Mayo's All-Ireland Final press night took place almost four weeks before the match and before the Green and Red knew who they were playing.

Only one player, Stephen Coen, was offered to the media, with Horan answering the rest of the questions himself and dominating proceedings.

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Conor Meyler of Tyrone in action against Stephen Coen of Mayo during the SFC final at Croke Park in September. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Conor Meyler of Tyrone in action against Stephen Coen of Mayo during the SFC final at Croke Park in September. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Conor Meyler of Tyrone in action against Stephen Coen of Mayo during the SFC final at Croke Park in September. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

You'd get more openness from an enclosed order of nuns with a vow of silence!

It didn't reflect well on the Mayo County Board and their control of their affairs.

It didn't reflect well either on the Mayo players and management - in fact it just didn't look well, full stop.

Contrast that with Tyrone, who offered four players and their joint managers to everyone for interview.

The only issue they had was that the media could not ask about the Covid outbreak in their camp. Shock Horror.

But who won the match? Yes, there's a lesson to be learned there.

Fair dues to Tyrone's Conn Kilpatrick who went public on the Claire Byrne show last week and talked about his gambling addiction.

It was open and honest and just serves to show us that these players are not robots playing inter-county Gaelic Games, they have lives to lead and the same problems as you and I.

But the GAA's all-powerful managers put these ordinary lads on the same level as professional sportsmen. Managers might take a more holistic approach to player welfare in the future.

And, finally, it is often thrown at me that I have talked the talk, but never walked the walk as a manager.

Let's clear that up. I have managed teams for 35 years at club, school and district levels - winning numerous titles along the way.

And I have offered my services over the years in many ways to several different Kerry County Boards - to help out in any way I can. I repeat that offer this morning.

Indeed, one incoming Kerry under-age manager was so impressed by what I said I could offer that he said he wanted me on board with him and would "ring you tomorrow to nail it down". That was a long time ago and I'm still waiting for the call.

Several years ago I was put on one of those 24-hour blood pressure monitors.

For 23 hours of the day I recorded perfect readings. For one hour, between seven and eight in the evening, the monitor hit dangerously high levels.

My doctor wanted to know what I was doing between seven and eight the previous evening? I was training the Templenoe Under-12s!

So, please God, this week I'll get back to counting sheep instead of worrying about sports managers.

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