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.
One of the reasons the GAA will never be able to compete with cross-channel soccer in hogging newspaper column inches is the lack of churn. All those lovely transfers on which to endlessly speculate and pontificate upon. And if there aren’t any transfers, you just make them up. It’s not as if anyone will check today’s fish & chip wrapping to find out what you said yesterday.
With that in mind, pronouncements on the certainty of Michael Ryan being appointed as the next Waterford manager should be treated with caution. If nothing else, the article in the link mentions that he will the first Waterford-born manager of the county since ‘Jim Mansfield’. Good to see NAMA bailing out one of our own. The story is speculative by nature, but there is some thought behind it, i.e he’s the last man standing. To avoid a long paragraph filled with commas, let’s look at the alleged candidates in list form:
- Jason Ryan: the man to whose mast I had so brazenly nailed my colours is staying with the Yellabellies.
- John Allen: Limerick-bound. I can’t say I’ll be lamenting missing out on him. His articles in the Irish Times over the years showed a man who fancied himself as a latter-day Myles na Gopaleen – NB this is not a compliment, Myles was meant to be a clown – and his All-Ireland success was a legacy from Donal O’Grady. Speaking of whom . . .
- Donal O’Grady: not interested in anything by the looks of it. A pity. Not only did he turn Limerick around, people forget the mess Cork were in when he took over – crushed by Galway in 2002, under O’Grady they’d be Munster champions in 2003 and All-Ireland champions in 2004. He’s clearly not a man given to Brian Cody-style empire building, so he might be available again in another five years.
- Kevin Ryan: not interesting the selection committee. This is a weird one. Why should Kevin Ryan not applying for the job or being nominated rule him out, while Jason Ryan neither applying or being nominated leads to him being so surreptitiously courted?
So unless a left-field candidate like James O’Connor emerges, that leaves Michael Ryan. What to make of him? He has experience of winning All-Irelands with the Waterford ladies footballers, and his hurling credentials are formidable with De La Salle (an obvious weakness for Jason Ryan). And yes, being from Waterford is a positive thing. It’s not that external candidates offend against our sense of Waterfordness or that I think a local will be able to tap into some hitherto undiscovered pool of passion. But it’ll be good that we feel confident enough in our own structures that we don’t need to look outside for someone who can look past our parish pump politics in putting together the county panel (see: Boggus Gaagaa).
Still, there’s going to be a last-chicken-in-the-shop feel to the appointment of Michael Ryan. Steve McClaren never recovered from the ridicule heaped upon his head as being ‘Second Choice-Steve’ after the English FA finally accepted that Brian Clough was in no position to take the job. It shouldn’t be so blatant with Ryan, but the contrast with how unexciting an appointment it will be in comparison to Jason Ryan (just saying) will be obvious. With the best will in the world, it’s not a dynamic appointment. And surely more-of-the-same isn’t going to cut it.
Mrs d has a great love for all things medieval and monastic, so on our second trip together to Ireland I suggested that Mount Melleray might be a nice place to visit. As we set out for west Waterford she inquired as to what state the buildings were in. A moment passed while I tried to work out what she meant, and then it hit me: she thought the building was a ruin. Her face when she realised that there was a working monastery in Waterford was even more of a joy than usual to behold.
And the Waterford County Board must be grateful for the existence of Mount Melleray as a place where they can carry on their deliberations on the identity of the next senior hurling manager. As with the departure of Davy Fitz the vacuum of information is total and we are left to rely on sources that might as well come with inbuilt inverted commas. A column from Dermot Crowe in yesterday’s Sindo typifies the genre, with Jason Ryan being touted as the front-runner. This is despite Ryan saying:
he had not applied for the job and that he wasn’t nominated by the clubs, while also stating that there were other candidates in contention who deserved respect and due recognition. However, as with any management appointment process, informal discussions can take place and it is believed that a six-man sub-committee has been in contact with Ryan.
“It is believed”? In other words, he’s guessing. About the best can be said for this is that Dermot has had a conversation with someone who is convinced that the six-man panel (whoever they are) are gravitating towards Ryan. Woodward and Bernstein it ain’t.
Still, articles like this do serve a function in that they give us something to talk about. And I have to admit that the notion of Ryan taking over is an intriguing one. His success with Wexford was built on neither a robust inheritance from underage teams (it was only this year that they won anything at those levels) or the talismanic powers of a great player (their run to the Leinster final this year was achieved without Mattie Forde). His achievements there far outweigh those accrued at inter-county level by the other people being mooted for the job. Yes, even those of Liam Dunne.
Of course, there is the small matter of him never having managed a hurling team, something noted by @LDelpiero on Twitter:
Why not ask Trapitoni if he is interested then? They are different games!
One is tempted to be glib and observe that Trap would at least stop the full-back line from leaking goals. On a more substantive note, anyone who has played Gaelic games in Waterford will be familiar with both sports at some level and Stradbally is proudly a dual club. What Ryan would hopefully bring to the table from his time with Wexford would be the ability to organise a team that can win what Nicky English referred to as the fourteen little battles. You’ll win more than half of the games where you are superior in eight positions, almost all of them where you are on top in nine, and where you win in ten or more positions you’ll have the 2011 Munster final. The Wexford County Board saw something in Jason Ryan four years ago that made them take a risk on the young Turk. Waterford would do well to take such a risk too. And if I’m wrong, I’ll become a monk at Melleray and take a vow of silence. It’s win-win!