Is two better than one? Conundrum of the joint manager

Logan and Dooher on course to etch their names in history as a deadly duo
Tyrone joint-managers Feargal Logan, right, and Brian Dooher celebrate after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship semi-final match between Kerry and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Tyrone joint-managers Feargal Logan, right, and Brian Dooher celebrate after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship semi-final match between Kerry and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

One of the most ill-fated experiments in Liverpool’s rich history saw the reign of joint-managers Gerard Houllier and Roy Evans last just four months when the latter walked away from the club in November of 1998.

Liverpool legend Evans declared that “you just feel it is not the right formula for players, they do not know who the boss is” as he departed, but that unsuccessful partnership has not stopped others from trying likewise.

It’s not an alien concept in the GAA and while Páidí Ó Sé was the man in the spotlight when Kerry landed the 1997 All-Ireland SFC title, he technically did so as joint-manager with Seamus MacGearailt sharing some duties with the Kingdom great.

Some eyebrows were raised when Gerry O’Connor and Donal Moloney took the Clare senior hurling reins from Davy Fitzgerald from 2017 to ‘19, but that pair had worked together for a decade having enjoyed extraordinary success at underage level.

O’Connor and Moloney steered the Banner to five successive Munster hurling titles — minor in 2010-’11 before U-21 triumphs in 2012-’14 – with the latter trio converted into an All-Ireland hat-trick so it was a natural progression for the Clare pair.

The same could be said of Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan when the 2015 All-Ireland U-21-winning duo combined forces once again to take the Tyrone mantle after Mickey Harte stepped aside last November.

Dooher and Logan could jointly lead the Red Hand to the promised land for just the fourth time in their history when they face Mayo in Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC final and that notion is still a novelty in the GAA.

Moloney acknowledges that “people get fascinated with it” as they are predisposed to seeing just one bainisteoir patrolling the sidelines, but he insists that “consistent communication” and “trust” underpin any successful managerial partnership.

“We would have assigned ourselves different tasks and played to our strengths as much as we could. We’d have always split our dealings out with players and been very consistent in our views,” Moloney reveals.

“The critical thing is that you have to work with someone that you share the same ideas and philosophies with, you have to share the same values. There has to be great trust in any management team, otherwise you just wouldn’t get to that level.

“We were well practised in it, we worked for years and years so it was no big issue for us. We would probably have spoken every day of the week, even long before we got the senior job with Clare.”

Logan recently referenced the influence of former Tyrone joint-bosses Art McRory and Eugene McKenna on his playing career and it’s particularly noteworthy that such an experience would pave the way for him to do likewise with Dooher.

Logan isn’t one to overstate the role of a manager, or managers, and he insists it is “all about the collective” as he balances life as a solicitor along with inter-county demands while Dooher continues to practise as a vet as well as his commitment to Tyrone.

Moloney and O’Connor held similarly demanding jobs outside of their inter-county duties so sharing the responsibility worked perfectly for the Banner duo, although the former is adamant that a profitable partnership can only happen organically.

“It has to come from the people involved, you’d never throw it together. It was a unanimous decision on both of our parts and we had huge trust in each other all of the way through that, whether it was hurling or outside of hurling,” Moloney says.

“We would have confided in each other and respected what each of us brought to the table. I look at Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan now and every word they utter is about the team, it’s not about them. Every word they utter, the team is front and centre at all times. It’s never about them.”

Much like Moloney’s involvement with Clare, Logan insists that it is “as close to a straight 50-50 on everything” when it comes to divvying up responsibilities with either a phone or Zoom call “every night” and more contact with Dooher than anyone else outside of immediate family.

Making substitutions and tactical switches can prove tricky but Moloney insists that “80 per cent” of moves made on match-day are pre-determined while the concept of joint-managers came in particularly handy on Ulster final day. Logan was forced to miss the provincial decider with Monaghan amid Covid chaos, but that didn’t stop him assisting Dooher from home.

“My phone was here beside me, and then I had the TV screen. The phone, I could hear the crowd and it still hadn’t happened on the TV. Then I was going, ‘S***, has that ball gone down their end, or our end?’ And Joe (McMahon), mainly was operating it with Brian,” Logan recalls.

“They were in good hands. I would have been better just putting my feet up at home, 100 miles away and relaxing. He divvied up all the subs that day. But I was talking to them, I was talking to them at half-time.

“We had an open WhatsApp call. It seemed to work and kept the line of contact to the guys, but you don’t know if you are doing right or wrong or adding benefit . But we got over the line.”

Logan is widely regarded as the good cop with Dooher taking a harder line and that dynamic is something which Moloney can relate to.

“Oh yeah, at times we’d hand things over to each other and say ‘Look, can you address this or vice versa because the message would be better coming from you’. We’d often do that and someone would step in a certain time and hit the nail on the head.

“We’d always try to compliment each other like that and make sure that we’re consistent with our messaging, not just with the players but with the coaches as well. That’s really important, it just promotes teamwork and collaboration.”

Logan admits his role has been “all-consuming”, but the dream team are just 70 minutes away from adding their names to a unique piece of history. And if the winners write the script, joint-managers could soon be everywhere.

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