If you break it, you own it

The current standoff in the United States is a source of angst to anyone who doesn’t want to see the world’s wealthiest country implode, not least among them being the President and his supporters. However, the law of perverse consequences means that there is some good news for the Democrats. With the fallout from the clash dominating the headlines, teething problems for the health care reforms known as Obamacare are not getting the attention from the enemies of the reforms (i.e. the people causing the shutdown) that they might otherwise have done. The shutdown is effectively providing a smokescreen under which the law that the shutdown is being staged to prevent can be implemented successfully. The irony is delicious.

Here in Waterford, we should be grateful for the ongoing back-slapping operation created by the thunderous finish in the All-Ireland final replay to what was already the most thrilling season of hurling that I, or anyone else of my acquaintance, can remember. You know something special has happened when even Fleet Street newspapers like the Guardian are piling on the love. Hopefully by the time the fuss has died down, we’ll have papered over the cracks exposed by the need to search for a new manager.

For what an embarrassment it has been. Four names emerged from the process, none of them likely to inspire either the supporters or the players who took such exception to Michael Ryan. We can say this much with certainty about the attitude of the players towards one of those names because he was Michael Ryan. While my sympathies lay with him throughout this, it’s a relief that he has withdrawn his name. No manager can hope to function when the whole world knows the players have no confidence in him, so while you can understand his stubbornness in carrying on it was never a starter.

Then we had DJ Carey. A truly great hurler, enough to get a fawning article about him printed in the Observer back in the day (and speaking of embarrassment, the less said about the writer of the article, the better). But what has DJ done as a manager to deserve being fast-tracked to inter-county management? Little enough that even he wasn’t interested. So names were being bandied about of people who didn’t even want the job in the first place. As I said at the top, thank God this wasn’t all happening during the hurling silly season.

As of today, this leaves Peter Queally and Derek McGrath. They’re both solid choices with lots of coaching miles on the clock and, all other things being equal, being from Waterford is an advantage. But both are coming off the back of frustrating defeats – Queally for the Under-21’s, a defeat that felt like a missed opportunity even before Clare romped to Munster and All-Ireland glory, and McGrath seeing his De La Salle team fall to Ballygunner when everyone was already marking them down as county champions. Neither of these defeats fatally undermines the case for them. It means that neither makes a decisive case for their appointment either.  Passage winning the county title might tip the scales in Queally’s favour, but that’s a huge ask. The County Board have insisted they are not limiting themselves to those two candidates. We should hope this is the case, if only so it doesn’t look like McGrath/Queally won the role thanks to the toss of a coin.

One of the lessons that must be learned from the current pickle is that the business of ‘consulting’ squads on the status of the manager is a fudge. The players effectively have a veto over who the manager is. Spare us any flannel about how they never said they were unwilling to play under Michael Ryan. You can’t seriously ask a group of people for their opinion then behave as if that expressed opinion is enough in itself. Maybe it is a good thing to consult the players. There’s something to be said for getting any grievances out in the open rather than letting them fester. The problem is that the players don’t have to deal with the consequences of their actions. You can see people already lining up to lambast the County Board over the new manager even though they weren’t the ones who brought us to this situation.

It’s not something I like, but if we are going to insist on this consultation then we should formalise the players veto. At the end of a manager’s term, whether that be two or three years, the players get the chance to express no confidence in the incumbent. This way, they have their fingerprints all over the decision rather than being able to vote no confidence while at the same time claiming that they weren’t really dissing the current manager. It might soften the players cough if they realised that they are owning their decision in the eyes of the public. And who knows? They might be really good at making these calls and we’re all better off as a result. At least we’d be able to assess this with a proper sample size rather than lurching from one crisis to the next, never heeding the warnings from history. Isn’t that right, Mr Obama?

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