A few tweaks and changes on Ulster sidelines
With still a few vacancies to fill and a couple of positions to be rubber-stamped, Shaun Casey runs the rule over the managerial situation in Ulster...
ENDA McGinley and Stevie O'Neill stepped away from their roles after two years at the helm after crashing out in the opening rounds of Ulster and the Tailteann Cup.
The pair leave behind decent foundations with the Antrim County Board surprising everyone by opting for the leftfield choice of Andy McEntee, who had just vacated the Meath job. It'll take a while for McEntee to find his bearings and will be an interested spectator at this weekend's Antrim SFC opening games.
IT will be as you were in the Orchard County next season. Armagh enjoyed a year to remember in 2022, reaching the All-Ireland quarter-finals where they lost out in dramatic circumstances to Galway on penalties and also secured their Division One status. Kieran McGeeney will oversee another year of Orchard development and it’s likely that 'Geezer' will once again team up with Kieran Donaghy and Ciaran McKeever for the next season. It will be McGeeney's ninth season in charge - the longest serving manager in Ulster.
MICKEY Graham said after Cavan’s Tailteann Cup final defeat to Westmeath that he would take time to consider his future in the position having completed four years in the job. Graham guided the Breffni Blues to an unforgettable Ulster Championship in 2020 and earned promotion to Division Three for next season, winning the league title against Tipperary in Croke Park.
The Cavan Gaels clubman has certainly improved his native county and would be a huge miss should he decide to walk away.
DERRY are one county that certainly aren’t on the look-out for a new manager as they hope to continue on the upward trajectory under Rory Gallagher. The former Fermanagh and Donegal boss led the Oak Leaf County to a first Ulster crown in 24 years and brought them to within 70 minutes of an All-Ireland final. There will be tactical tweaks to work on during the winter months, and Gallagher will be targeting promotion to the top tier once the League begins next season.
DECLAN Bonner ended his second stint as Donegal boss in recent weeks having spent five years in the bainisteoir bib. As with most counties, Jim McGuinness’ name has been connected to a return to county management, having guided Donegal to an All-Ireland title 10 years ago. It remains to be seen if he swaps his Sky Sports mic for another spell on the sidelines.
Others linked to the vacant position are former All-Ireland winners Rory Kavanagh and Karl Lacey. Kavanagh guided St Eunan’s to a Donegal title last year while Lacey is the Head of Academic Development in the county. A McGuinness-Lacey partnership would be many people's dream ticket.
IT’S no real surprise that James McCartan stepped aside from the Down management position following his turbulent return to the hotseat. The Mournemen failed to pick up a single competitive victory in 2022 and suffered relegation to Division Three. The rumour mill will soon be in full swing and Conor Laverty is the early front runner again. It would appear it's Laverty's job to refuse at this stage having acquired a lot more experience at inter-county level and with an All-Ireland Club winner's medal in his back pocket.
KIERAN Donnelly will have been pleased with his first term in charge of his native Fermanagh, although there are definite improvements to be made for 2023. The Erne County finished in mid-table of Division Three, but it could have all been different had Sean Quigley’s wide been waved over the bar against Westmeath. Fermanagh put it up to Tyrone in the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship and crashed out of the Tailteann Cup against Cavan. Donnelly's project is still in its infancy.
JASON Sherlock has emerged as the front runner for the Monaghan job and former Dublin All-Ireland winner Kevin Nolan, who lives and plays club football in the Farney County, is said to be along with him. Sherlock spent a number of years in Jim Gavin’s management team during the famous five-in-a-row years. Former Armagh sharpshooter Oisin McConville had been strongly linked with the job following Seamus McEnaney’s departure, but it now looks like Sherlock will be in charge of Monaghan next season.
BRIAN Dooher and Feargal Logan guided Tyrone to the promised land last season but endured a tough 2022. Historically, the Red Hands struggle when it comes to defending their All-Ireland crown and this year was no different. Tyrone retained their Division One status, but their championship performances were far from convincing. Dooher and Logan are set for another year at the helm and with the influx of the All-Ireland winning U20s to come into the squad, 2023 could be a big year for Tyrone.