The way the club draw went last Monday night, there is the potential for some cracking senior quarter-finals. Sometimes you can get a false picture of a player as he is playing well on a dominant team. You can get a better judge of a player when he is marking another good player or when his team is struggling against a more dominant opposition.
Temperament, as much as ability, is necessary to thrive at senior inter-county level.
The first step you might expect Ronan to take is to identify possible ways he’d like his team to play, the specific roles for each player, and then see if the players are there to fulfil these roles. The plan may then have to be adjusted depending on the initial review.
While it is unknown whether there were other people interested in the management position, you can still see why McCarthy was appointed. He had three years’ experience as a selector/coach under the Conor Counihan and Brian Cuthbert reign. This would have given him great insight into the nuts and bolts of inter-county football preparation while avoiding the increased pressure of a managerial position.
Ronan has management experience with his own club and, in 2016, steered Carbery Rangers to their first senior county title. This would have provided him with experience as a manager, which brings a lot more demands than been a selector. It would also provide further insight into the culture and talent available at senior club level.
In addition, his career progression from teacher to principal would have provided him with further management skills that would no doubt transfer over to his Cork position.
Similar to identifying players, the first step with any new manager is deciding what specific roles he needs in his management team. These can vary from team to team depending on the manager’s philosophy and individual skill-sets involved.
Eamon Ryan was picked as a selector, possibly to provide continuity from the last two years. Sean Hayes has worked with younger members of last year’s panel, plus already knows many potential inter-county players through his role as U21 manager.
Then, no doubt, Ciaran O’Sullivan was selected as Ronan is well aware of the attributes he’ll bring from their time working under Cuthbert.
McCarthy was appointed as a coach but it will be challenging to expect him to perform all the duties of coach and manager at senior level. Many recent successful managers had competent assistant coaches alongside them.
Jimmy McGuinness had Rory Gallagher, Jim Gavin has Declan Darcy and Jason Sherlock, while Mayo have Donie Buckley and Tony McEntee. Eamon Ryan may take on additional coaching duties similar to what he had during Peadar Healy’s reign.
One thing for sure is McCarthy needs to be his own man with strong convictions on what players he wants and how his team will set up. No matter how things are going, there will always be plenty of opinions and criticism going around.
There is a fine margin between winning and losing. It is not about having the biggest backroom team but rather an effective team. Everyone has an important role to play, whether it is goalkeeper coach, statistician, medical team, or logistics men. The right appointments are crucial.
Along with the appointment of senior management, we saw Sean Hayes appointed as U20 coach with Bobbie O’Dwyer appointed as U17 coach on a two-year term.
The link between senior and U20 makes sense as, naturally, you may have some players who will be good enough to play senior as the year progresses while McCarthy will be expecting a number of other U20 players to progress to the top level for years two and three.
The link between both squads will bring its own logistical challenges as the U20 football competition is being moved to the summer.
I understand running U21 football in the spring had its difficulties as it increased the load on some players who had Sigerson and club and inter-county U21 competitions running side by side.
It still had merits, though, as it allowed some players to progress to the senior panel in May after a good U21 campaign. This is how Con O’Callaghan progressed this year for Dublin.
It will be interesting to see will the U20s play a similar style to the senior team and if the U17 players will be developed both athletically and tactically to progress, considering the ever-increasing demands of senior level. Each team will want to win their own competitions in their own right but the U17 and U20 squads should always be feeder squads to the senior team.
There has to be a link between all squads, starting at U14. Identify exactly what you want at senior level presently and create a pathway from U13 to senior. This plan can always be tweaked but it will ensure you have a roadmap of where you would like to go.
There have been improvements made in development structures over the last few years, no doubt. It is through the collective approach in technical, tactical, and athletic development, which can take things to another level altogether.