2013 Article: McGeeney – It Must Have Been the Heat!

Watching the ever-brilliant Laochra Gael episode on Dermot Earley Junior on TG4 tonight and seeing Kieran McGeeney interviewed about Dermot reminded me just how big an influence the Armagh man was on that group of players. Peter Kelly alluded to it as well in his Nationalist interview in recent weeks, saying that training has lacked the intensity of those days under more recent managers.

I was furious when McGeeney was sent packing in 2013 and I wrote one of my first articles about it for the GAAScores.com website.

I have reproduced it here,

“Enjoy”..

Richard


 

It can only have been down to a mass outbreak of sunstroke. With temperatures perversely climbing back into the mid-20’s, how else to explain what went on in Newbridge last night?

The bare facts: Kildare’s County Board executive agreed to propose the retention of Kieran McGeeney as county football manager for a further, seventh, year. It was decided to put that to a vote of club delegates. 29 voted against the motion, 28 four.

4 members of the same executive committee apparently decided to vote against their joint recommendation. 4 clubs including one of the biggest and most successful in the county reportedly abstained. We are supposed to believe they had no viewpoint on the appointment of the most important managerial position in the county. Democracy in action. The people have spoken, right?

Some more facts :

  • 5 All Ireland Quarter Finals
  • 1 All Ireland Semi Final (Kildare’s third in 57 years)
  • A cross bar and a widely recognised incorrect square ball decision away from an All Ireland Final in 2010
  • A disputed last minute free away from a draw with All Ireland champions Dublin in 2011
  • An incorrect square ball decision and a late late wonder point away from drawing with Donegal the same year
  • 1 National League Division Two title
  • 2 O’Byrne Cups
  • 1 Leinster Under-21 Championship
  • Top 4 finish in 2013 National League Division One
  • 8 under-21’s given their senior competitive debut in 2013
  • Senior Competitive record : Played 101 Won 61 Drew 7 Lost 33

There’s a fair few counties who would have taken that record over the last 6 years. We haven’t even mentioned Leinster titles at Junior and Minor level in 2013 to complete an unprecedented treble for the county. But apparently it’s not good enough for Kildare. No, Kildare need change.

Mighty Kildare. No All Ireland senior title since Sam Maguire was handed out for the first time in 1928. 85 years and a fair few heatwaves ago. 50 years since the last All Ireland at any level. Eight successive losing finals in all grades. No National League Division One titles ever. Two senior Leinster titles since 1956, with only one manager, the great Micko, able to achieve that feat. Mighty Kildare. The Wolverhampton Wanderers of Gaelic football.

“A black day for Kildare. I’ve never felt so empty” (Johnny Doyle, modern legend of Kildare football since 2002)

 “I’ve never been ashamed in my life to be a Kildare footballer, until tonight” (Eamon Callaghan, Kildare captain)

 “A disgraceful way to treat a man who put so much heart and effort into Kildare football” (Emmet Bolton, long-serving Kildare player)

One could go on. Tweet after tweet. An outpouring of shock, hurt and downright anger from the squad on social media overnight. From the likes of Doyle to some who generally warmed the bench in 2013 like Mikey Conway, Hugh Lynch and Alan  Smith, the outpouring of player support for McGeeney was overwhelming. Not just a clique of Geezer’s favourites then.

But sure what would they know?

The more you look at it, you have to look beyond results to get to the heart of last night’s events.

As Kildare planned for 2013, on the back of a dis-appointing hammering by Cork in the All Ireland Quarter Final (reminder : their fifth in a row), it surely was no secret that the team needed an infusion of youth to further its progress?

With an exciting under-21 team banging down the senior team’s door, McGeeney was clearly given a mandate to oversee the transition from one team to another. Surely the footnote to that objective wasn’t to bring home a Leinster or All Ireland title in the first year of that process? (Reminder: that would be the third Leinster in 57 years).

No – this wasn’t a matter of poor results. Sure, Kildare were given the hammering of all hammerings by Dublin in June. That’ll All Ireland finalists Dublin who just won the game of the ages at the week end scoring 3-18 against the aristocrats from Kerry (they went just one point better by notching 4-16 against an admittedly callow and outplayed Kildare). And for sure, Kildare players disappointed themselves more than anyone when coming up short against Tyrone in Newbridge during the last heatwave in July. By all of 2 points. That’ll be Tyrone who reached the League Final and All Ireland Semi Final.

None of this is to suggest McGeeney was without fault. Even his  supporters would question the failure to find a cohesive midfield partnership in recent years, or a solution to the problem centre back position in which the man himself excelled. Or the lack of consistency in his forward line selections. One could argue that the balance between strength and athleticism and football skills and tactical awareness was unduly weighted towards the first two. The “gym monkey” argument was not totally without merit.

But no, you cannot rationalise this on results or lack of progress.

This was about the club. It was about access to players and the power that McGeeney was seen to wield in not releasing those players back to their clubs enough. To stall the club championship into Autumn. It’s not an issue unique to Kildare, it’s endemic in the GAA. But it has bubbled away and last night was payback time.

Secondly the Seanie Johnston fiasco cannot but have played a part. With the benefit of hindsight even the Geezer might now admit that was not his finest hour. The love affair could only end in tears with Johnston’s return up the M3 with his tail between his legs and a hastily purchased bunch of service station blooms for his jilted first love.

So what happens now? The Kildare players apparently met on Wednesday night to “discuss the issue further and formulate a response”. While borne out of anger and loyalty to their manager, this is surely a situation beyond redemption.

Even if by some convoluted machinations last night’s decision got overturned on some technicality (or normal Irish temperatures bringing cooler heads and an outpouring of contrition), it is unimaginable that McGeeney would walk back into Kildare to take up the reigns as if nothing had happened. Why should he? With that gaping knife wound in his back. No, that boat has sailed sadly.

The appointment of a new manager is one for another day. Glen Ryan, whose record with Longford was promising but ultimately inconclusive, Jason Ryan, McGeeney’s trainer for the last year, and the highly regarded Cian O’Neill, will top the initial betting list no doubt.

But what is the new manager coming into and will many candidates relish it? While there is great potential in the squad that McGeeney has begun rebuilding this year, what appetite for the role will there be, given that:

  • Clubs will clearly expect to re-balance the player availability issue.
  • Retirements of senior players will undoubtedly accelerate (Doyle being the most obvious but unlikely to be alone).
  • Players may take flight to the US and other far flung destinations in search of employment (no longer tied by loyalty to McGeeney). Kildare are one of the few county teams to escape this fate to date.
  • There may be a divisive player revolt a-la recent times in Cork and Limerick.
  • The expectation clearly must be that a Leinster title at a minimum would qualify as success next year.

No, it’s not an altogether enticing prospect.

Thank God heatwaves arrive with the same frequency as Kildare bring home the silverware. Mighty Kildaremen, what have you done?