Jim McGuinness and Ray Galligan face into very different seasons in charge of Donegal and Cavan. INPHO
serious support

Nothing new in beefed-up GAA backroom teams for McGuinness and Galligan

Dublin and Tipperary carried management teams of 23 in All-Ireland winning year of 2016.

THE WEEK IT was breaking that Jim McGuinness was returning as Donegal manager, the man himself was on a family holiday. It wasn’t until his return that the Donegal county board could finally shout from the rooftops that they had delivered their man.

An subsequent email then from the county Public Relations Officer to the media stated; ‘There is no plan to have a press conference at this time, as I believe Jim is out of the country.

‘Should Jim wish to hold a conference, on his return, I will let you know.’

Media shouldn’t hold their breath on such a group appointment. McGuinness has already engaged with the Irish Times where he has had a long-running column, and in this interview the details of McGuinness’ return were thin on the ground. At his ratification, it was revealed that his brother-in-law Colm McFadden and Neil McGee will be in the backroom, along with former minor manager Luke Barrett helping out with analysis.

And chances are, the number of people within McGuinness’ bubble will not grow much more than that.

During his first coming, he had Rory Gallagher as assistant, and Marc ‘Maxie’ Curran handling analysis. Once that backroom ran its’ course, McGuinness assembled a new backroom team of his former team mates, Damian Diver, Paul McGonigle and John Duffy for the 2014 and his final, season.

And the general public might have felt that was all there was to it. Certainly on match days, McGuinness never rolled too deep with an entourage.

In general, the All-Ireland winners of the last decade-and-a-half have shied away from that, or at least given the impression.

For Kerry, Jack O’Connor may consult with selectors, but Paddy Tally for example does not make an appearance along the sideline.

Efforts to ‘tidy up’ the sideline has also had the desired effect with less bodies around the place, but the complete absence now of an on-field ‘runner’ is a regressive step.

In general, it creates the impression that teams are run by a small number of individuals on matchday.

Which brings us to Cavan’s announcement of Raymond Galligan becoming their new manager, succeeding Mickey Graham.

While 36 years of age is young to be taking over a county, Galligan’s appointment has astonished many, given that he is the current Cavan goalkeeper.

And here’s a stat to chew on. After Mickey Graham took over for the 2019 season, apart from a 20-minute spell in one Dr McKenna Cup game, he was goalkeeper for every other minute in every game.

The feeling is that he will now relinquish the no 1 jersey. His options are Liam Brady of Ramor United, and Ballyhaise custodian Gary O’Rourke. Both are solid options.

As if his youth and lack of managerial experience wasn’t eye-catching enough, Cavan took the surprising step of detailing everyone in his backroom team, fleshing out their particular roles.

This included former Tyrone player and coach Stephen O’Neill and the Meath ladies’ manager Eamon Murray.

eamonn-murray-celebrates-the-final-whistle Meath's Eamonn Murray. Tom Maher / INPHO Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

After that, the surprise was the sheer number of people involved, such as the champion runner, Catherina McKiernan, player liaison officer Ronan Flanagan, along with five individuals tasked with stats and analysis.

All in, 19 people were named as help for Galligan.

It’s caused something of a stir as questions are raised about the sustainability of an – yeah we’re gonna call it that again – amateur sport with so many people involved.

But there are subtleties involved. While the likes of Murray, O’Neill and James Burke will be regulars on the training field, other roles will be peripheral at best, occasional at most.

Those that come under that bracket include nutritionist Patricia Feeley, Paul Kilgannon who was listed as ‘workshops’, while some would question the wisdom of listing all five people looking after stats and two different ‘equipment managers.’

The mistake here is to believe that this is a ‘big’ backroom team.

Back in 2011, when Donegal won their first Ulster title in McGuinness’ first year in charge, his captain Michael Murphy made the victory speech. As well as thanking McGuinness and Rory Gallagher, he named 15 other individuals.

Among those were Maxi Curran, the late goalkeeping coach Pat Shovlin, as well as some of the Strength and Conditioning experts in Adam Spiers, Paul Fisher and Eugene Ivers.

The medical team numbered five, headed up by Dr Kevin Moran and Dr Charlie McManus. He thanked the food caterers, Jimmy McGlynn, sponsors Donegal Creameries and kit suppliers Azzuri, along with McGuinness buses.

When Jim Gavin was in charge of Dublin, Declan Darcy and Jason Sherlock were very visible presences on the sideline, but little was known of the scale of their support network until a photograph emerged after their All-Ireland final replay win over Mayo in 2016.

the-dublin-management-team-celebrate The Dublin management celebrate the 2016 All-Ireland final win. Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

Altogether, 23 individuals were in the shot, including Gavin. Those from left field included the former Boxer Bernard Dunne who was billed as a ‘sports performance and lifestyle coach,’ statistician Ray Boyne, and media liaison officer Seamus McCormack.

In addition, Anne Marie Kennedy was listed as a Yoga teacher but both Bryan Cullen and Gary Keegan were not present in the picture.

The same year, Tipperary had a picture of their management team. Again, it numbered 23.

At this rate, McGuinness will need to add a few more to his ticket if he wants to join the others in creating a large support network around his team.

No matter what, they will still be some way off Ireland’s rugby team, who are reputedly bringing a management team of 50 to the upcoming World Cup.

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