08 Dec 2021

INSIDE TRACK | GAA and soccer thickly populated in an era of great managers


INSIDE TRACK | GAA and soccer thickly populated in an era of great managers

Former Dundalk FC manager Stephen Kenny after leading the club to the FAI Cup at the Aviva Stadium last November. (Pic: Sportsfile)

We are living in an era of great managers. Soccer is thickly populated with them, not all toiling in England and further afield.

Stephen Kenny is no longer at Oriel Park, but the impression he made while there figures prominently in the club’s story. He’s presently looking after one of the country’s underage sides; next year he’ll be strutting his stuff on the line, keeping watch on the senior team. It’s his reward for a near impeccable League of Ireland record, and if he can replicate at international level what he’s achieved in the domestic game he’ll find himself keeping company with Jack Charlton.

Gaelic games is well served, and has been for some time. Three All-Ireland seniors after he’d come through the ranks, masterminding minor and U21 title wins along the way, give Mickey Harte an edge over many others who’ve worn the bainisteoir bib.

Harte, who’s more than two decades on the sideline, has maintained a fine winning tradition cultivated by Mick O’Dwyer, Kevn Heffernan and Seán Boylan before him.

And around the same time as the Tyrone man was making his senior debut, Brian Cody took over from Kevin Fennelly as Kilkenny hurling manager. Like O’Dwyer and Heffernan, Cody was a winner on All-Ireland day as a player, but nothing he achieved in the No.3 jersey would compare with what he’s done in the meantime.

The James Stephens clubman failed to make it the dandy dozen on Sunday. Having dominated the opening quarter, his side had one of his trustiest of lieutenants, Richie Hogan, red-carded. That was that.

Cody has seen many of his sides overcome adversity in the past on his way to claiming 11 All-Ireland titles, but this was a day he could find no way back. Arch-rivals Tipperary made full use of their numerical advantage to claim a victory which rekindled memories of 2010. That year the Premier won the meeting of the sides by 4-17 to 1-18.

Nothing, however, can take from what Cody has accumulated in his two decades in charge. He has a record that will never be bettered.

On the Sunday after the next one, Jim Gavin will patrol the Dublin sideline as his students go in search of a fifth successive football title. Gavin himself, along with some of his players, has already won five - Stephen Cluxton and others have a half-dozen - but to put that many in a row, thus creating a record, would place his greatness beyond doubt.

Much has been said of the advantages Dublin has in terms of the amount of money being poured into underage and schools games, players having little travelling to do, and most of the seniors’ championship matches being played at Croke Park. We can only ask: without a manager as astute and knowledgeable as Gavin, would Dublin be within touching distance of history even with so much going for them?

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