BEFORE the All-Ireland football final, Tyrone joint manager Feargal Logan spoke about his surreal experience during this year’s Ulster final, when Logan couldn’t attend the game due to Covid-19.
Confined to keeping in contact throughout the match with his fellow joint manager Brian Dooher from his sitting room, Logan was on an open WhatsApp call with Dooher and the rest of the management team. They spoke at half time, but live contact was much more difficult because of a 30-second delay on the TV.
“I could hear the crowd on the phone and it still hadn’t happened on the TV,” said Logan. “I was wondering: ‘Has the ball gone down our end or their end?”
Logan and Dooher had already seen how joint managers had worked as they had both played under Art McRory and Eugene McKenna in 1996 when Tyrone won the Ulster title. Dooher was also there when McRory and McKenna returned for a second stint between 2001-2002, leading the side to another Ulster title in 2001, and to Tyrone’s first National League crown in 2002.
McRory and McKenna had worked well as a pair, but Logan saw the whole joint-management concept as even more important now, considering the huge workload involved.
After Logan and Dooher were appointed last December, Logan insisted in his first interview that there will be no “boss”. He said the whole management would be taking collective responsibility.
“The overriding dynamic is that we rise and fall together,” he said. “That is the way you operate as players on a team and there is no real difference in the management team.”
The pair were following Tyrone’s unique history of joint managers, but McRory and McKenna still didn’t deliver Tyrone to where they felt they needed to go. After being reappointed in the autumn of 2002, McRory stepped down three weeks later for health reasons and McKenna, who wanted to remain, was overlooked for Mickey Harte.
Around that time, former Tyrone player Ciaran McBride gave his reasoning why Tyrone had decided to appoint Harte: “McRory and McKenna had come to resemble the two Brians [McAlinden and Canavan] in Armagh; capable of taking the team so far, but lacking the knack to get them over the finish line.”
McAlinden and Canavan co-managed Armagh to successive Ulster titles in 1999-2000, but the team had stalled by 2001 and the pair were replaced by Joe Kernan, who guided Armagh to the 2002 All-Ireland.
McAlinden and Canavan worked well together but it can be hard for joint managers to stay on the same page. During the 2016 championship, it was clear to both parties that the Kevin McStay-Fergal O’Donnell Roscommon team was not working.
O’Donnell and two of his Roscommon backroom team stepped away at the end of 2016. When McStay wrote a 12-page season review for the county board, he discussed the reasons for the break-up.
“I believe we ultimately failed to provide the positive environment and coaching philosophy that might provide for championship success,” wrote McStay. “By summer’s end, our management team was fractured. I concluded that joint management had not worked out to my satisfaction, and was unlikely to work in the future.”
The fallout was huge. It was never stated, but some players loyal to O’Donnell left the squad. O’Donnell was a legend in Roscommon, and McStay — a Mayo man living in Roscommon — felt the stress and intensity go through the roof.
“Every day in 2017,” wrote McStay in his excellent book The Pressure Game, “was a pressure I had never known before.”
The notion of joint managers has always been unique because there are always the same questions hanging around the subject — who is really in charge? Who is making the big decisions? Can it really work?
As was obvious in Roscommon, the chemistry can turn toxic once the message gets mixed in a joint management set-up. On the other hand, Clare’s Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor showed what was possible.
O’Connor and Moloney delivered incredible and unprecedented underage hurling success to Clare .
Throughout their time together, Moloney and O’Connor split the job between them because they always said that it was the only way they’d have time to manage their county.
The dynamic and chemistry between Moloney and O’Connor was always right because they are best friends.
“It wasn’t really joint managers, it was a joint management team,” said Gerry O’Connor last year.
“We never felt we were the managers because it was consensus management with everyone else in the backroom team.”
That is the language Logan has always consistently spoken. Similar to O’Connor and Moloney, Logan and Dooher are also in busy jobs; Logan is a partner in a solicitors practice, while Dooher is the deputy chief veterinary officer for the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland.
“Woah, I can see how there are two of us, put it that way,” said Logan before the final. “There’s plenty going on.”
There is more going on now than ever before, especially for just one person in an amateur game. The code was always hard to crack at senior level. Yet Dooher and Logan finally debunked the myth and delivered an All-Ireland as a management pair.