With a new manager comes a fresh start, an opportunity for change, a chance for someone on the peripheral to come front and centre.
A new manager can inspire…
Take Joe Kernan for example, he took over an Armagh side in 2002 that was on the cusp of an All-Ireland final but just couldn’t get over the line in big games. When the Crossmaglen legend came in that all changed.
However, it doesn’t always have the desired effect. After a richly successful period in charge of Armagh, Kernan took on the role of Galway manager but was relieved after less than a year in the job following a qualifier defeat to Wexford in the 2009 Championship.
Here are our four managers to watch in this year’s Allianz Football League.
James Horan (Mayo)
An obvious one to begin with…
Horan has returned to the Mayo hot seat after four years away. The Ballintubber man was very successful throughout his first spell in charge, guiding them to back-to-back All-Ireland finals in 2012 & 2013.
When Horan stepped aside, it wasn’t that the players or the county board no longer wanted him. It was he who wanted a clean break from inter-county football and that’s what he got.
Now he’s back, and the excitement in Mayo is at fever-pitch following their dismal Championship campaign in 2018.
Cillian O’Connor recently spoke of his own personal excitement at Horan’s return, explaining that he has no doubts that his fellow club man will return a better than manager than he left in 2014.
“He is a character who is always looking to learn, even in his time away he was upskilling doing different courses and shadowing different teams. I’m sure he has added to his repertoire over the last few months and years. It is exciting now to see what will happen.”
Throughout Dublin’s dominant run, Mayo looked like the only team really capable of beating them on their day and with Horan’s return, fans will be confident that they can be the ones to stop the drive for five.
Mickey Graham (Cavan)
It is difficult to tell where Cavan are at. They are back in Division One after one season away, but despite dining at the top table over the past few years, the Breffni men still look a long way off Ulster rivals, Monaghan, Donegal and Tyrone.
Enter Mickey Graham…
A livewire corner forward in his pomp, Graham has made a hugely successful transition into management. He won Cavan junior and intermediate championships with Butlersbridge & Drumalee respectively before being appointed the manager of Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s.
Graham guided the tiny Longford club to three senior championships in a row, before stealing the nation’s hearts late last year when they overcame all the odds to topple Kilmacud Crokes in the Leinster final.
Mullinalaghta now face Kerry kingpins Dr Crokes in the All-Ireland club semi-final on February 16, which means Graham’s allegiances will have been split for at least the first four rounds of this year’s league campaign.
With that in mind, it will be interesting to monitor how Cavan fare in Division One with a manager who is double-jobbing.
John Maughan (Offaly)
Maughan returns to manage his fifth different county side following spells with his native Mayo (twice), Roscommon, Clare and Fermanagh.
Throughout a storied management career, Maughan guided Clare to a historic win over Kerry in the 1992 Munster Football final. He also guided Mayo to the All-Ireland final on three occasions in 1996, 1997 & 2004.
Offaly have a rich history in both football and hurling. However, they have been struggling around the lower-tiered divisions for quite some time now.
Maughan has already lamented the lack of players not making themselves available to the cause, whilst also telling reporters that he has seen players in the Offaly panel that would walk onto the Mayo side.
“There’s players here that I’ve seen that would walk on to the Mayo team for argument’s sake. All they need is a little bit of confidence and belief, get a few victories.” Maughan told RTE Sport.
Whether he turns Offaly’s fortunes around or not, one thing is for sure, John Maughan will be value for money entertainment wise.
Terry Hyland (Leitrim)
It is an exciting time for Leitrim football, with many expecting the perennial underdogs to climb out of Division Four this year.
Terry Hyland is a shrewd appointment that could help steer Leitrim in the right direction.
A native of Cavan, Hyland masterminded the county’s dominance at U21 level a few years ago. Cavan would win four Ulster crowns in a row, with Hyland steering them to two of those before taking on the senior job.
Hyland spent four and a half seasons as Cavan boss, guiding them to the All-Ireland quarter-finals in 2013 as well as promotion to Division 1 in 2016, he stepped down in the summer of 2016 despite that league success following their championship exit against Derry.
This could well be a match made in heaven. Hyland is used to punching above his weight, whilst Leitrim needs someone who could foster a winning culture. With three of their Connacht rivals currently playing in Division One, a provincial title might be a step too far, but league promotion should be well within their reach.