THE 2023 inter-county hurling season is probably the furthest thing on the minds of many this week but when the starting gun is fired next spring, it will be all change on the managerial front in three of the five Munster counties.
Over the past week or so there has been some dramatic happenings in Tipperary and Waterford following quickly on what transpired on Leeside with the departure of Kieran Kingston and the appointment of Pat Ryan.
Kingston’s three-year tenure had expired and whether or not he sought an extension, the bottom line is that there will be a new man leading Cork into the NHL and the subsequent Munster championship.
While Kingston completed his second term in charge, it was a totally different story in the Premier County with Colm Bonnar having his stay at the helm very prematurely ended after serving just one season of the three he had been given.
Fair enough, Tipperary did not have a good innings on any front since he took the reins, losing all four games in the round-robin series in Munster after earlier losing to Kerry in the pre-season Munster League which was followed by a fairly mixed national league campaign.
However, it came as a huge surprise to many within the Premier and outside it when it emerged that the County Board had dispensed with his services so quickly with the manner of his dismissal heavily criticised.
After all, through no fault of his, the cards he had been dealt didn’t amount to much with the retirements of Brendan and Pádraic Maher, two iconic figures in the blue and gold jersey.
Seamus Callanan was out injured for the vast majority of the season while John McGrath had his season prematurely ended too through injury.
For any manager, those losses would have cut very deeply.
Inter-county management is a ruthless business, all the more so in counties where so many were reared on success.
Many believed that the Tipp County Board was ruthless in its decision to end Bonnar’s reign so quickly.
The straw that probably broke the camel’s back where they were concerned was the concession of 3-30 to Cork in their final championship outing, although at that juncture they were looking for miracles in trying to extend their season.
Things moved very quickly after Bonnar’s departure with Liam Cahill bidding adieu in Waterford and whilst at the time of writing, there wasn’t any announcement about his future plans, it’s a near certainty that he will succeed Bonner in his native county.
After all, he was the chosen one to succeed Liam Sheedy but he decided to stay in the Decies for another season and he did give the supporters down there some good days out as they marched to the national league title.
But that joy was short-lived and a very disappointing championship campaign followed which resulted in the failure to be one of the three counties to emerge into the All-Ireland series.
Management in any county is a cutthroat business, it’s driven by results and results only and when they are not forthcoming the spotlight falls very much on the man in charge.
Four losses from four outings in the championship did not make for pretty reading in Tipp but, at the same time, many believed that the axe fell too quickly on Bonnar.
After all, Tipp had secured U21 and U20 All-Ireland titles in recent times, the minors landed the All-Ireland very recently so it could not be said that there wasn’t a base after being laid going forward.
Maybe the earlier departures of former star players, Paul Curran and Tommy Dunne from Bonnar’s management team hastened the decision for a changing of the guard.
Of course, it all begs the question, who would want to be a manager?
Jack O’Connor made a very telling statement at Kerry’s press event last week when he stated that a manager would really need to be someone who has retired from his workplace given the demands of the job.
And he was right, inter-county management is almost a full-time task now and here in Cork Kieran Kingston would probably agree.
During his most recent stint, he gave nothing less than 100% to the role, in fact, it was probably 110 and more with it.
Some team managers get to choose their own departures but they are very much in the minority and going back to what transpired in Tipperary with Bonner, the perception is that he was not given a fair crack of the whip after so much had conspired against him.
But being in a county that has known so much success through the ages, it is inevitable that the pressure is all the greater and Tipperary was certainly a case in point this past week. Personnel who were revered during their playing days are quickly turned on when their managerial careers do not measure up in a similar fashion and they are quickly turned on by supporters.
And on social media, the faceless keyboard warriors have a field day when things start to go wrong.
So one has to admire Andy McEntee, the Meath football boss this season who suffered plenty of abuse after the county’s failure to make any significant impact. After spending six seasons in charge, he stepped down from that post only to jump almost straight back in by becoming the new Antrim senior boss.
Others might have taken a sabbatical for a while but not him and credit to him for that.
Of course, in the glens, the pressure will not be anywhere near as great.
But in any county, life as the manager is never going to be a bed of roses. In fact more often than not it’s ruthless as Colm Bonnar found out in Tipperary.