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Relishing inter-county management return after taking Galway heave on the chin

Anthony Cunningham: ‘I love the GAA, that’s my hobby, my past-time, my passion and that hasn’t changed.’

NEW ROSCOMMON BOSS Anthony Cunningham doesn’t envisage any difficulty in switching from hurling to football management.

Cunningham, who has lived in Roscommon for most of his adult life, says he is looking forward to building on the progress achieved by predecessor Kevin McStay.

Anthony Cunningham Anthony Cunningham is the new Roscommon senior football manager. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The 53-year-old, who guided the St Brigid’s club in Kiltoom — where he lives — to Connacht glory and then did the same with Westmeath’s Garrycastle in Leinster, believes there is very little difference between managing a hurling team and a football one.

“I’ve had a good run at the football as well, quite a lot of football. It was probably a change for me when I had to go back to the hurling,” said the two-time All-Ireland winning hurler with Galway.

“Now I have to make the change back again but management and management set-ups, coaching, preparation, working with counties, with clubs and all that, is very similar.

“We will have to work on a style of play as well and develop that. But that’s what you do with your management team and I hope that I’m well versed in that and have the management experience from other counties.

“I did a small bit with Laois as well a few years ago, Dublin hurlers last year and even in that environment with Pat Gilroy I got to know the Dublin footballers as well.”

Cunningham was in charge of the Galway hurlers for four years before being ousted in a player heave after reaching the 2015 All-Ireland final, but he had no hesitation in getting back into management.

Anthony Cunningham Cunningham had a four-year reign as Galway senior hurling manager. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I would never ever have said no. I’d be the opposite and I think it similar to a player if he has a bad game or if he has an area of improvement that he has to work on; you take that on the chin and go on.

“For me it was very enjoyable in Galway for the four years there, and tremendous satisfaction as well that they went on and won an All-Ireland after that.

“You can do one of two things: you can go home and sit in the corner, or you can go out and get involved in the sport that you love. I love the GAA, that’s my hobby, my past-time, my passion and that hasn’t changed.

“We will work really, really hard at this and that’s not to say I might have a U8 team or a U10 team to coach in two or three years’ time. There is no task any bigger or smaller than me,” he added.

The task facing Cunningham was laid bare in Hyde Park yesterday when he witnessed Roscommon champions Clann na nGael being hammered by 27 points by Corofin, but he’s looking forward to the challenge nevertheless.

“It’s a clean start for everybody and we will look at every player. I follow the club football in Roscommon quite closely and the backroom team will as well.

The Roscommon team The Roscommon panel pictured before their clash with Tyrone at Croke Park in July. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We will be getting our heads down now when we’re allowed back to full-time training in December. It’s going to be highly, highly competitive. We are working away on our backroom team and will outline the backroom team to the players when we meet at the end of the month.

“Hopefully we can have a great run and pick up on the success of last year. And you have to say there was big success last year, to make the qualifiers, tremendous work done by Kevin [McStay] and Liam [McHale] and the players. We want to kick on from there, that’s the goal.”

Cunningham was closely linked to the Dublin hurling job when Pat Gilroy stepped down but he said he had no issue with Mattie Kenny — a former selector of his with Galway — getting the job.

“It was really enjoyable last year but that’s closed for me. It’s ongoing for me what’s the next challenge. Dublin chose a new man with Mattie Kenny so we wish them the best of luck for the year ahead. That’s the prerogative of county board,” he added.

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Declan Rooney

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