Ciarán Murphy: Tipp move quickly to curb rumblings
County board back coach as official calls for management team to ‘resign en bloc’
Derek McGrath: even with his success, patience was always in short enough supply with McGrath in Waterford. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
The World Cup appears to aggressively hothouse the more primitive human emotions. We’ve seen it in this country before, obviously, and we saw it yesterday when one of the great footballing nations of the world pressed the self-destruct button on the eve of the tournament’s opening match.
Spain sacking their coach barely 48 hours before their opening game against Portugal stretched credulity on some level, but what we saw in Krasnodar yesterday was also perhaps simply a retelling of countless managerial mishaps across the GAA, and across sport generally.
Player-led revolts always get the headlines, but rather more common is the battle between ‘blazers’, to borrow a phrase from rugby, and a manager deemed to have overstepped the mark with his employers, as Señor Lopetegui found out to his cost this week.
How many times have we seen an outside manager brought in to manage a county team at great expense – or great expenses, I should say; great, and above-board, expenses – standing proudly with the county board official who masterminded it all? If all goes well, then he was the man with the vision to make it happen.
And if it all goes wrong?
Then, having ushered his pick out the door with as much grace as they can jointly muster, the next managerial appointment will be handled by a vast, hastily-assembled committee, with plenty of fresh candidates for blame if the new coach fails to turn it around. To turn an old phrase on its head, the experienced county board man or woman prefers ‘success’ to be a single parent, and failure to have 1000 fathers and mothers.
As our Spanish friends are finding out, painlessly extricating yourself from a job can be just as difficult as getting it in the first place, and that’s even when you’re not fixing for your next gig while you’re still in your current one.
For Derek McGrath, he was prevailed upon, after much deliberation, to take over for one more year as Waterford manager. Having lost the All-Ireland final in 2017, and with Kevin Moran and Michael Walsh nearing the end of their careers, maybe it made sense to come back for one more cut at it.
McGrath doesn’t appear to do regrets, but he will certainly be saddened that it ended so limply if this is his last year. The Waterford players have apparently been making it abundantly clear to McGrath in the past few days that he would be welcomed back again with open arms in 2019. But one can’t help but notice that, even with his success, patience was always in short enough supply with McGrath in Waterford.
There was a feeling that he tinkered too much, that he overthought things, that if given the choice he’d always choose the most complicated answer to any question. Plenty of times, in the aftermath of big matches, it seemed like that sort of talk was finally put to bed, but it never took long for those murmurings to resurface after defeats.
His county board might be listening to that sort of loose talk, but it appears as if McGrath’s fate lies in his own hands. It might not be quite so clear-cut for Michael Ryan in Tipperary. He’s already said that whatever decision he comes to, he will make the right call for Tipperary hurling – and no-one who’s ever dealt with Michael Ryan would suggest that he’d do otherwise.
But by Monday afternoon, one member of the Tipperary GAA politburo, a chairperson of one of the four divisions in the county, had suggested Ryan and his managerial team were “past their sell-by date” and “should do the decent thing, and resign en bloc”. The county board came out with a statement yesterday which said that the Tipperary management team is not the subject of any discussion or change.
“Comments made by any individual(s), contrary to the above, do not represent the views of the county management committee and are therefore not to be associated with the committee or county board officers in any way. There will be no further comment in relation to this.”
But our friend from West Tipp is already on the record.
The temptation to look like you’re the man or woman with the power, with the upper hand, is one that too many sports administrators find impossible to resist. The Tipperary County Board can try and wash their hands of the renegade in their midst, but Ryan must surely recognise that that individual wasn’t speaking in a vacuum.
The vaulting ego of the Spanish FA President Luis Rubiales, and his wounded pride at having been passed over by his manager in favour of Real Madrid, is indicative of the sort of self-immolation that can often occur when you’re in charge of an organisation, but not the face of it. The urge to nudge your way into the limelight is all too often irresistible.