An unexpected managerial appointment can to add real Harte to a team

An unexpected managerial appointment can to add real Harte to a team

St Finbarr's U16 hurling selectors this season: Luke McCarthy, Donal O'Grady and Aidan Hegarty. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

ALMOST everybody in the GAA community was taken by surprise on Monday night when it was announced that Mickey Harte would be taking over as manager of Louth.

Having not been offered a new term in Tyrone after 18 years, few felt that Harte would stay out of action for too long, keen to prove that he had something to offer, but the general expectation was that he would become involved with a top-tier side.

It may well prove to be the case that Harte transforms Louth into a team capable of challenging, but it won’t be an easy task.

Picture: INPHO/Matt Mackey
Picture: INPHO/Matt Mackey

Sometimes, though, an unexpected change of direction can be exactly what a team and manager need and there are a few examples of that here on Leeside.

In terms of GAA, back in the winter of 2002, when Cork hurling manager Bertie Óg Murphy was an unfortunate casualty of the first strike, Donal O’Grady seemed a leftfield appointment as his replacement.

While, immediately after his retirement, he had been a selector on the Cork team that won the 1986 All-Ireland, he hadn’t been involved with minor or U21 teams in the years prior to 2002, though he did lead Youghal to the IHC in 1993.

As it turned out, he was the perfect fit for a squad in search of some organisation and order. In his first year, Cork won the Munster title and reached the All-Ireland final, losing to Kilkenny; the following year, they won the All-Ireland.

Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

While O’Grady departed, there was a seamless change as John Allen replaced him and the Liam MacCarthy Cup was retained in 2005.

Footballing-wise, it shouldn’t be overlooked just what a brave call it was by the county board in 1996 to replace Billy Morgan with Larry Tompkins.

There was no doubting the strength of Tompkins’ personality and he had coached some of the sides he had been involved with as well as guiding Waterford to three Munster U21 football finals, but he was only 33 at the time.

As he recounts in his autobiography, Believe, he hadn’t expected to be asked.

“One day in mid-August, Christy Cooney, the Cork county board chairman, rang asking to meet me and I met him out in Bishopstown, where he was based at the time with FÁS.

“He confirmed that Billy had decided to step down and he asked if I’d take over the Cork team. I didn’t even tell Christy I’d think about it… I said it would be an absolute honour to manage Cork.

“As far as I was concerned, my county days were over because of my back. Everybody seemed to expect it; I suppose I was seen as a natural successor but it was still a nice surprise to be asked.”

Picture: Dan Linehan
Picture: Dan Linehan

As it happened, Tompkins was playing so well for Castlehaven that he would return as a player in 1998 and the following year he led Cork to the first of two Munster titles, falling just short against Meath in the All-Ireland final.

On the soccer front, from this remove the appointment of John Caulfield to replace Tommy Dunne at Cork City at the end of 2013 seems a natural call, but it was a big leap for the club’s board to take at the time.

While he was a club legend on the field, Caulfield’s managerial experience had been limited to stints with Avondale United and UCC in the Munster Senior League. He had been successful, but there was no guarantee that that would translate.

Thankfully for City, it did, culminating in the 2017 league and cup double.

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