‘No Country for Young Men’

Does the GAA landscape hinder the development of younger inter-county managers?

BY offtheball.com 14:55 Friday 9 November 2018, 14:55 9 Nov 2018

Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

As the day-to-day commitments of inter-county Gaelic football and hurling intensify, county boards are demonstrating an increasing tendency to favour experience when it comes to appointing a manager.

Although age and know-how aren’t necessarily impediments for innovation, this calculated attempt to recruit an older, more seasoned manager comes as the inter-county scene undergoes wholesale revisions.

From the distinctly younger playing personnel within panels, to sprawling back-room teams that require direction from above, it is fair to assume that the demands wrought upon a manager have never quite been so extreme in terms of basic attention to detail.

Whereas one may suspect the temptation to appoint a recently retired inter-county player more readily familiar with this brave new world would have garnered currency, the very opposite stance has taken hold.

Offaly’s appointment of the 56-year-old John Maughan comes as the Faithful County look to put the dysfunctions of 2018 behind them. After Stephen Wallace’s contentious spell in charge reached its premature conclusion in May, Paul Rouse was drafted in on an interim basis.

Incapable of taking up the role in a long-term capacity, the county board replaced turned to Maughan undoubtedly aware of the knock-on stability such an esteemed figure can generate. Assuredly confident in his ability to improve the county’s lot, Maughan’s appointment nevertheless signals a rowing back from the risk Offaly undertook with Rouse; a safe pair of hands, if ever there was one.

Furthermore, unlike Rouse (47) presumably, the time required to fulfil the various elements the role of an inter-county demands are clearly no concern for Maughan. Speaking to the Times, a fear of ‘sitting in front of the TV every evening’ contributed to his managerial return. For better or worse, Maughan was a man with time on his hands.

Upon releasing their ESRI report in September, the Gaelic Players Association contextualised the commitment required to play inter-county football and hurling. With players devoting anywhere up to 31-hours per week to their county responsibilities, one need only imagine the incessant demands of overseeing thirty or so such players.

With an overwhelming proportion of these inter-county players in their 20s and 30s suffering from sleep deprivation, a higher susceptibility to injury and next to no time with their families and friends, it is little wonder that when one reaches the conclusion of a playing career, the desire to slip into inter-county management is perhaps not there.

It is reasonable to suggest, therefore, that the advanced age-profile of inter-county managers is a reflection of this. Finding someone who has the experience is one thing; locating someone who has the adequate time is another.

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