Changing of the guard! 16 new managers getting set for the 2018 inter-county GAA season

We’ll have 12 new managers in football and four in hurling.


1. John Meyler (Cork)

John Meyler Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

JOHN MEYLER ASSUMES the mantle from the outgoing Kieran Kingston, who departs on the back of a Munster-winning campaign. Patrick Horgan admitted last week the Cork players were surprised to see Kingston depart, but Meyler’s appointment brings a sense of continuity in the set-up.

A number of young stars who debuted in 2017 will be aiming to take another step forward this season. Improving on last year will be a difficult task for Meyler, but Cork hurling appears to be on the rise again.

2. Pat Gilroy (Dublin)

Pat Gilroy Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Pat Gilroy’s appointment as Dublin hurling boss has been the most fascinating off-season move on the inter-county circuit. The man who laid the foundation for Dublin’s dominance in football, has now been tasked with overseeing a rise from the ashes for the county’s hurlers.

Gilroy has managed to persuade Danny Sutcliffe, Alan Nolan, Johnny McCaffrey, Conal Keaney and Peter Kelly out of inter-county exile to supplement a very young squad. They’ll likely be without the Cuala contingent for most of the league, but come the summer Dublin will be hoping to seriously compete in Leinster.

3. Kevin Martin (Offaly)

Kevin Martin Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

New manager Kevin Martin is the latest member of the successful 1990s team to try his hand at managing the Offaly team, but the two-time All-Star has a proven track record.

Martin was player-manager for Tullamore’s shock Offaly SHC win in 2009, while he also managed Westmeath to the Christy Ring Cup in 2010.

Martin’s first task was to bring back in a number of experienced players into the set-up. Former captains Daniel Currams, Conor Mahon and Colin Egan are back with the squad, while Martin also lured talented Shamrocks forward Derek Molloy out of retirement.

4. Nick Fitzgerald (Meath)

Nick Fitzgerald Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Nick Fitzgerald takes charge of the Royals for the inaugural Joe McDonagh Cup, with the carrot of an All-Ireland SHC preliminary quarter-final up for grabs for the two finalists of this competition.

Fitzgerald has shrewdly brought in Kilkenny legends Martin Comerford and Mick Kavanagh as selectors. Free-taker Stephen Clynch retired during the winter so Sean Quigley will be expected to shoulder the scoring burden in his absence.


5. Declan Bonner (Donegal)

Declan Bonner Source: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

The only Division 1 team to start 2018 with a new manager, Donegal have turned to former minor and U21 boss Declan Bonner. It’s Bonner’s second stint in charge of the seniors, having previously taken charge as a 32-year-old back in 1997.

He spent three years over the team during his first spell, but 21 years on he’s vastly more experienced this time around.

A wave of youngsters have emerged in Donegal following the retirements of several long-serving players and Bonner has worked with the majority of this squad at underage level in the past.

He also brought 2012 Footballer of the Year Karl Lacey on board as his assistant.

6. Ronan McCarthy (Cork)

Ronan McCarthy Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Cork’s narrow qualifier loss to Mayo last summer, in addition to Ronan McCarthy’s appointment has brought about a renewed sense of optimism surrounding the county’s footballers.

McCarthy caught the eye with his good work at club level in Cork and his priority will be establishing a level of consistency in 2018. Former ladies football manager Eamonn Ryan remains part of the backroom team.

7. Damian McErlain (Derry)

Damian McErlain Source: Presseye/Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

Damian McErlain takes over the Oak Leafers following a successful spell in charge of the minors, where he led them to Ulster titles in 2015 and 2017.

He’s managed to entice a number of players back into the fold, including Liam McGoldrick, Kevin Johnston, Emmet Bradley, Terence O’Brien and Michael Bateson, all of whom opted out last season. Veteran Mark Lynch has also committed to another campaign.

McErlain must do without the Slaughtneil contingent until February at least.

8. Rory Gallagher (Fermanagh)

Rory Gallagher Source: John McVitty/INPHO

Rory Gallagher’s arrival in Fermanagh is one of the most intriguing managerial moves of the off-season.

The ex-Donegal boss replaces the old-school Pete McGrath and has brought in Tyrone legend Ryan McMenamin as his assistant.

Fermanagh will be relying on Tomas Corrigan and Sean Quigley for scores as they aim for significant improvement in 2018.

9. Stephen Wallace (Offaly)

Stephen Wallace Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

New Faithful manager Stephen Wallace has made it clear he intends on bringing in a more attractive style of football to Offaly.

The former All-Ireland-winning junior manager has brought in fellow Kerrymen Billy Sheehan and Brendan Kealy as part of his backroom team.

Offaly are working with a youthful panel as they deal with retirements of Niall McNamee and Brian Darby, as well as long-term injuries to Eoin Carroll and Peter Cunningham.

10. Cathal Corey (Sligo)

Cathal Corey assumes the mantle from outgoing Niall Carew, bringing in Derry legend Tony Scullion and another former Oak Leaf player Conleth Gilligan as his selectors.

The Tyrone native has an established record at club level and he previously worked as joint-manager with Jim McGuinness at Glenties.

Before he was offered the Sligo job, Corey applied for the managerial position in Donegal but was overlooked.

11. Colin Kelly (Westmeath)

Colin Kelly Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Ex-Louth boss Colin Kelly has replaced Tom Cribbin as Westmeath begin life in Division 3 following their promotion last spring.

Kelly left his native Louth after three seasons in charge and takes over a squad with plenty of potential. The St Loman’s contingent in the panel were unlucky not to win a Leinster title last year, while the performances of former minor star Luke Loughlin bode well for the coming season

Kelly has brought in Dundalk FC goalkeeper Gary Rogers as goalkeeping coach.

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12. Paul McLoughlin (Wexford)

Paul McLoughlin Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Paul McLoughlin makes his debut in inter-county management after previously acting as selector in Wexford under Jason Ryan.

McLoughlin, a former Kildare footballer, replaces Seamus ‘Banty’ McEnaney on a three-year term.

As a player he featured in three Leinster finals, but his first priority will be ensuring Wexford retain their place in Division 3.

13. Pete McGrath (Louth)

Pete McGrath Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Pete McGrath comes from Fermanagh to replace Colin Kelly, who’s now over Westmeath.

Louth enjoyed a fine league campaign in 2017 but lost a few key players for the championship and never reached the heights they were capable of last summer.

Fellow Down man Declan Mussen has joined McGrath’s backroom team in Louth, in addition to Louthmen Wayne Kierans an Aaron Hoey.

14. John Sugrue (Laois)

John Sugrue Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Another midlands outfit have gone for a Kerryman, with John Sugrue joining Laois as their fourth manager in four years. His fellow county man Jerome Stack arrives in as coach, in addition to new selectors Eoin Kerins and Brendan Delaney.

2013 Irish Amateur Open champion Robbie Cannon has been a left-field appointment as head of strength and conditioning.

Gaining promotion from Division 4 will be high on Sugrue’s list of priorities.

15. John Evans (Wicklow)

John Evans Source: Presseye/Andrew Paton/INPHO

New Wicklow boss John Evans arrives for his third inter-county job, after successful spells over Tipperary and Roscommon.

Wicklow legend Leighton Glynn comes on board as selector, along with Stephen Cushe and Brian Heaslip.

Evans handed debuts to a number of youngsters during the O’Bryne Cup, but they’ll rely on marksman Sean Furlong to kick the scores up front.

16. Lenny Harbinson (Antrim)

inpho_00415755 Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Lenny Harbinson is the new manager of the Saffrons, appointed on a three-year term as they prepare for life in Division 4.

Harbinson, who made his name as All-Ireland winning manager of St Gall’s in 2010, has brought in former Loup club player Fionntan Devlin as head of strength and conditioning, alongside goalkeeping coach Peter Bunting.

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