Today’s Examiner is reporting that John Meyler has become the front-runner in the race to become manager of the Waterford hurlers, although as the image above shows Jamie O’Keeffe over at Hung For A Lamb had read the tea leaves correctly a week ago. If picking the Waterford manager is indeed a ‘race’ then it’s the 800m, long enough so that it’s not a sprint but short enough that the lead can change very, very quickly. Keep an eye out for Wilson Kipketer or Sebastian Coe coming up on the outside.
More headwrecking is trying to work out what game the Waterford County Board is playing at. When Jason Ryan was mooted as a possible candidate it represented the thrilling possibility of a complete break with the past, a past which has seen us come up short. If you view Waterford as occupying the same kind of ground as Limerick and Clare, we would be the ones who would do something dynamic rather than recycling the same old faces. Yet not only does it look like we’re going to the same lucky dip of managerial talent that probably has Steve Bruce somewhere near the bottom of it, we’re going for the guy who has won nothing of note. And that Clare fella won his Grand Prix with Waterford. Maybe we should box off Justin McCarthy before Kerry poach him.
When the Waterford hurlers staged their heave against Justin McCarthy back in June, comparisons were made with the infamous strike the Cork hurlers and footballers staged last winter. While there were superficial similarities, the core issue was quite different. The Waterford hurlers were rising up against an individual. The respective Cork panels were revolting against the entire body politic of the GAA; indeed, they were at great pains to emphasise that they had no issue with the personalities involved (that didn’t stop their supporters casting online aspersions against Teddy Holland, but in fairness to the Cork players they didn’t waver from their position and they can’t control the trolls, nor should they be expected to). You can argue about which is worse – I know where my vote on that matter is – but the differences between the situations are clear and unarguable.
Well, the situation in Waterford now has a companion in the departure of John Meyler as Wexford hurling manager. Faced with a situation where the players refused to play for the manager, the County Board decided to fire the manager.
It’s not unheard of in GAA history – Brian McDonald memorably faced an open letter from the Mayo football panel where they excoriated his management style, not least the indignity of pushing a car round a car park as training – but the proximity of two senior panels behaving in the same manner suggests it is becoming more common. At the risk of sounding like one of the tinfoil hat brigade, it’s easy to speculate that many managers are relieved of their duties after their counties exit from the Championship after a quiet consultation with the players, or at least the superstar ones who are to be found in even the lowliest of inter county panels.
So this looks like the future in the GAA, and it ain’t right. Watching the Wexford panel warm down after they had beaten Waterford in the League this year, there didn’t seem to be any personality issues as they cheerfully engaged in an activity that makes players look utterly daft. It’s only when the Kilkenny train smashed into them that the personality issues became a problem. As per above, we can instantly dismiss the statements for and against John Meyler online. If players had a problem with Meyler it was their responsibility to walk away from the panel, not collectively spit their dummy out.
The one consolation from the Wexford situation is that it makes the manner in which Justin was dispatched look almost dignified – this report on RTÉ tells a tale of county tearing itself apart. With the players in each county no longer a bunch who show up after the saving of the hay but a coherent group throughout the summer, it would be a strong County Board that could drive a wedge between any panel set on a course of action.