Some Notable Managers


Jim 'Tough' Barry (1891-1968) Cork

Jim 'Tough' Barry was known as a trainer rather than a manager but he had all the functions and characteristics of the latter. His 'managerial' career lasted from 1926, when he came in as assistant trainer to Pakie Mahony on the Cork senior team, to 1966 when he helped to return Cork to All-Ireland glory after twelve years in the wilderness.

The attribution 'Tough' in his name suggests something of a big, commanding figure, but Jim was the very opposite, a tidy man. His nickname came from a boxing career in which he was a useful bantamweight, a skill he used in exhibitions for the Arms Fund after 1916. He was a very active sportsman and, as well as boxing and hurling, which he played with Blackrock, he excelled at watersports and was springboard diving champion of Ireland for four years. He also won many swimming races. He was a member of the Neptune Club and played water polo with Dolphin. He was a referee and was in charge of the 1945 All-Ireland minor final.

He also possessed a beautiful tenor voice, which he put to use in the chorus of the many travelling companies which came to Cork. He also sang solo in many places including London with the Carl Rosa, Moody Manners and O'Meara opera companies. In the early days of the cinema he sang the 'Persian Love Lyrics at the interval in the Palace Theatre, Cork.

During his period with Cork he guided the team to thirteen All-Ireland titles, four during the 1926-31 period, five between 1941-46, three between 1952-54 and the comeback title in 1966. He is credited with bringing a forward-thinking and holistic approach to preparing players. A tailor by profession, he visited workplaces to talk to employers on behalf of his players. He demanded proper meals for his squads after matches and was renowned for having them perfectly prepared for the biggest games. The secret of his success with so many teams was in the way he managed to gain the affection and respect of all the players under his charge. The atmosphere at his training sessions was relaxed and his contacts with players spiced with humour. His great experience and personal achievements helped to instill confidence in his players. On top of everything he had a wide knowledge of the game and his sideline moves were often sufficient to turn defeat into victory.

Jim 'Tough' Barry suffered a stroke in October 1968 and died in the South Infirmary a few days later.

 

Paddy Leahy (1891-1966) Tipperary

The term "manager" as it is used today wasn't used in Tipperary or elsewhere during Paddy Leahy's lifetime. But in the exercise of personality over a team it was he who came nearest to the modern definition of the word. First as a selector, then as chairman of the selection committee, his influence over Tipperary senior teams extended into three decades and was unprecedented.

Born in 1891, he grew up with the GAA, his father having played in one of the county's first county finals. His local townsland, Tubberadora, became nationally-known by winning three All-Ireland titles in 1895, 1896 and 1898. Fierce local rivalries were harnessed in 1912 by the founding of the Boherlahan Hurling Club at a meeting attended by Paddy, and which saw his brother Johnny elected club captain.

A natural citeóg with wrists so powerful that all his life he had difficulty in finding a watch-strap to fit, he had won two junior All-Irelands before, in 1916, under the captaincy of his brother Johnny he won his first senior medal against Kilkenny when, in answer to the Kilkenny captain's post-match comment: "We were better hurlers", the Tipperary captain replied, "But we were better men!" He would win another in 1925, after he was prevented by the Civil War from fielding in a game that was lost to Kilkenny in 1922.

His appointment as county selector in 1949 began a trail of victory for Tipperary that was to end only with his death in 1966. It was marked by eight all-Ireland titles, nine Munster championships and eleven National Leagues. With each year his influence grew and he was widely regarded as the man who dominated not only the picking of teams but the deploying of Tipp's forces during games.

His departure led to a dramatic decline in the county's hurling success.

It is generally accepted among the surviving members of the teams of Tipp's glory period that his status among players was unquestioned. He never indulged in table-thumping speeches in the dressing-room but there was a personal relationship with every player and there was a moment for each when there was the hand on the shoulder and it behoved him well to take heed of the advice given.

He enjoyed a lifelong friendship with opponents of his own hurling days and with Mick Mackey and Christy Ring and other stars of other counties. But his great idols were the men he shepherded to so many victories for the Blue and Gold. In his Pantheon there was never a goalkeeper like Tony Reddan, a centre-back like Tony Wall or a forward like Jimmy Doyle.

Perhaps nothing so underlines the difference in the role of manager today from that of Paddy Leahy's day was that during the years when he was guiding the county's fortunes on the field, he was also the county's representative on the Central Council of the GAA. And he was nearly 75 when he was forced by his final illness to relinquish both portfolios.

 

Father Tommy Maher (born 1923) Kilkenny

Fr. Tommy Maher, often referred to as the Godfather of Modern Hurling, was born in Thomastown in 1923. He went to school in St, Kieran's College and later returned there as a priest and teacher. He also became heavily involved in coaching the college senior team.

But this was to happen later. While home for the summer holidays from Maynooth in 1945, he played some good hurling with his club, Castle Rovers, and was drafted into the county team for the All-Ireland against Tipperary, his first and last game in the Kilkenny jersey.

What his short spell as an All-Ireland panellist had shown him was how primitive and unco-ordinated the training was. 'Surely', according to his biographer, Enda McEvoy, 'he concluded, there had to be more to training than this delirium of effort for its own sake. Surely there had to be room for thought, for logic, for imagination, for the cultivation of science, for the identification of problems, for the improvement of weaknesses and for the coaching of skills.'

He got the opportunity to put his ideas into practice when he returned to St. Kieran's as a teacher in 1955. As with the county, the game of hurling was at a low ebb in the college and he set about getting things right. Success came quickly with the All-Ireland Colleges victory in 1957 a day on which, in the words of his biographer, 'he demonstrated that the small things were the big things, that success in hurling was about mastery of the basic skills, that practising the skills was not only desirable but crucial and that practice – proper practice – could mean the difference between victory and defeat.'

Later in the same year he was drafted in to the Kilkenny senior hurling team as coach. Over the next twenty-one years he would preside over an era which saw the county win fourteen Leinster finals and seven All-Ireland titles.

He soon discovered that nobody had ever put any effort into coaching the players in skills or methods or combination play. He drummed into their heads the importance of thinking about what they were doing. He emphasised the need of putting the opposing team under pressure by constantly chasing and harrying them. He had specific instructions for players in every position. Communication was vital, not only between coach and player but between the players themselves.

And there was much more that helped to transform Kilkenny hurling and make it the powerful force it was to become. Fr Tommy Maher was a man before his time and for all time.

 

Michael 'Babs' Keating (born 1944) Tipperary

Probably one of the most colourful managers of the modern era, Michael 'Babs' Keating had a varied and distinguished managerial career after he retired from a playing career that brought him significant success in both hurling and football. A person capable of the pithy comment, which landed him in trouble on occasions, he generated substantial media publicity.

His first intercounty job was in charge of Galway in 1978-79 and had mixed results. Losing badly in the National League final, Galway bounced back to defeat Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final, only to go down to Kilkenny in the final.

He was with Tipperary from 1986 to 1994 and was a major influence in bringing the county back from the hurling wilderness. He was responsible for revolutionising the role of managers, giving them a much higher profile. In fact he became the centre of media attention for the county. He also looked after teams in a holistic manner not known before. He recognised the commercial value of intercounty players and dragged the county system into the commercial age. Most notably he gave supporter clubs a status and a place in the county system and used them to extract finance in a way not available before. He expanded the support base of teams and made hurling an attractive game to follow.

During his period with Tipperary he brought the county its first All-Ireland in eighteen years and won a second in 1991. He won five Munster finals and two league titles but the general consensus appears to be that with the talent available, the team should have won more. Particularly galling for supporters were defeats in 1990 and 1992.

After a year away from inter-county management, he returned for two years with Laois, 1995-1997 but, following some success in the National League, the county failed in the championship in both years.

After resigning from the Laois job he took on Offaly in 1997-1998 and tried to introduce a stricter training regime, which wasn't well received by some of the players. Matters came to a crisis after defeat in the Leinster final by Kilkenny and some derogatory remarks by Keating of the team's performance. He resigned from the position and the team went on to take the All-Ireland under new management.

He returned to the Tipperary job once more for two years in 2005 in an attempt to revive the county's flagging fortunes. There was little success and two controversies when he dropped both Brendan Cummins and Eoin Kelly during the 2007 championship. The defeat by Wexford led to his resignation.

Whereas Babs Keating's success rate with teams may not have been the greatest, the ideas that he brought to the job of manager in the G.A.A. context will ensure his a place in the history of hurling.

 

Justin McCarthy (born 1945) Cork

Justin McCarthy started training Passage at the age of twenty-two years in 1967 when he was injured and unable to hurl. He remembers writing notes on players, listing their good and bad points. He picked up ideas on training from listening to others, thought a lot about the game and had a passion for hurling.

He was already keen to learn more and started attending the coaching courses at Gormanstown at the end of the sixties, initially as a student and later as a teacher. Among other things he learned the importance of communication. He put major emphasis on the fundamentals of the game, on hooking and blocking, on striking on either side, on having the player's equipment properly prepared and suitable. He was also a stickler for time and organisation around training sessions. He always expected the highest standards, which some players were unable to meet.

He broke new ground when he went to Antrim in 1970. He was still a trainer as the word 'coach' hadn't yet entered common parlance and 'manager' was still a foreign word, associated with games like soccer. He had his first major achievement when Antrim won the All-Ireland intermediate championship in 1970.

He continued the learning process, listening to team mentors in dressingrooms and picking up a lot. His next 'training' job was with Cork in 1975. He was part of the panel but when Willie John Daly retired, he was asked to take over the training. Cork won in Munster but were beaten by Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final.

His life has been devoted to coaching and management since then. The list of teams includes Seandún, a city club he got to the Cork senior semi-final, Clare for four years at the end of the seventies, which resulted in two league titles and two near misses for Munster finals, Cork in 1982 and in 1984, when they won the centenary final at Thurles, 1985, when they lost to Galway in All-Ireland semi, Cashel for their first county title and near miss for All-Ireland Club, bringing Dunloy to an All-Ireland Club final, Waterford from 2001-08 and three Munster titles, including their first title in thirty-nine years and a National League, Limerick for two years, and he's currently coaching Ballyroe.

This has been an extraordinary journey bringing to gospel of hurling to a large number of clubs and counties and wishing to be remembered for the contribution he made to the game. Achievements have been important to him but everything he has done in this area has been to make players better hurlers, teams more successful combinations and hurling one of the greatest sporting experiences in life.

 

Liam Griffin (Born 1945) Wexford

Although he had quite a short managerial career, Liam Griffin, made a big impact on the management of teams and continues to be an important voice in the development of the game through his position in the media.

He started his club hurling with Rosslare and, after moving to Clare, joined Newmarket on Fergus with whom he won senior hurling titles in1967, 1968 and 1969. At the intercounty level he played minor, under-21 and intermediate with Wexford, winning and All-Ireland at under-21 level in 1965, and beaten in the intermediate All-Ireland in the same year.

He had an early interest in coaching but mostly at juvenile level and completed a diploma in sport psychology in the early nineties. Having failed twice to take charge of the Wexford minors he was put in charge of the senior team at the end of 1994 after the earlier favourites withdrew from the race. The county hadn't won a Leinster title since 1977 or an All-Ireland since 1968.

However Griffin had a different perspective on Wexford, having been brought up at a time when the county was successful. In fact in 1965 Wexford had contested the four hurling All-Irelands. If Wexford were successful at that period there was no reason why they shouldn't be once again.

His first season was anything but successful. In spite of introducing a strict diet and training regime, Wexford were beaten by Meath in the National League. Having stripped captain, Liam Dunne, for playing a club game before the Leinster semi-final, they were beaten seven points by Offaly.

Matters changed dramatically in 1996. The manager made wholesale changes to the team and enforced a new training regime. He began to work on the minds of the players, some of whom had become fatalistic and accepting of the state of Wexford hurling. He used Clare's example in 1995 of a county not accepting defeat as their lot. His own connection with Clare was very strong, through work and family and their new-found success was very meaningful to him. He got the players to begin believing in themselves as well as coaching them to be better players.

His work paid off and Wexford won their first Leinster title in almost twenty years. They went on to win the All-Ireland, beating Limerick by four points despite being reduced to fourteen men, when Eamon Scallan was sent off before half-time. Wexford refused to panic and revealed the 'character' of the side..

In spite of guiding his native-county to an emotional championship title Griffin decided to retire as manager at the start of 1997 due to personal issues.

 

Eamonn Cregan (born 1945) Limerick

Hurling has played a major part in Eamonn Cregan's life since he won his first medal, at under-16 level, when he was aged eleven years! The game is always on his mind and he is happiest imparting his knowledge to those who are prepared to listen. After a distinguished playing career of over twenty-five years with Claughaun and Limierisk which won him numerous county titles, four Munster titles, one All-Ireland and three All-Star awards, he turned his attention to coaching.

One of his earliest and most pleasant coaching memories is winning a hurling and football double with Claughaun in 1986 as player-manager. He has looked after numerous club teams since then and is currently with Mary Immaculate TC, which he brought to a Fitzgibbon Cup final in 2013 from a total college panel of fifty players.

At intercounty level he first became involved with Limerick between 1986-88 but without any success. He was with Offaly from 1992 to 1996, during which time the county won two Leinster and one All-Ireland titles. Unfortunately for him the latter was at the expense of his native county. He found the Offaly players well developed in the skills of the game and concentrated on making them fitter and introducing more ground hurling.

He returned to Limerick in 1997 and stayed with them until 2002 without achieving any success. He was particularly disappointed in losing the Munster final to Tipperary in 2001 and the All-Ireland quarter-final to Wexford. In 2013 he became coach of the Limerick minor team and finds this role the most satisfying.

As a coach he believes that the basic skills of the game should be learned at an early stage. He is not in favour of omitting any skills, particularly ground hurling, which some managers are inclined to pass over. It allows for fast ball into the forwards, which prevents the backs from settling and anticipating what is going to happen. Too much coaching can confuse a player and prevent him expressing himself. While high catching is important it's not the be-all and reflects on the player's opponent.

 

Cyril Farrell (born 1950) Galway

Cyril Farrell had an early interest in the coaching side of the game and his first county job was with the Galway minor team in 1973. He progressed from there to the under 21 side in 1978, achieving All-Ireland success, following a replay with Tipperary in the final. He moved up to the seniors after defeat in the 1979 final.

It was a case of instant success with the Galway seniors in 1980. The team came to the game on the back of two All-Ireland appearances since 1975 and two defeats of Cork in the same period. On the day they got the best possible start with a goal by Bernie Forde and superb goalkeeping from Michael Conneely. Galway lost the 1981 final to Offaly and the semi-final of 1982 to Kilkenny after which Farrell resigned. He was involved with the minors in 1983 when they captured their first All-Ireland.

He returned in October 1984 and stayed with the team until 1991. This was a glorious period in Galway hurling, during which they reached four consecutive finals between 1985 and 1988. The first two were lost to Offaly and Cork while victory was there lot in 1987 and 1988. The Keady affair contributed to the failure to make it three-in-a-row in 1989.

Farrell's interest in coaching was paramount in team preparation. He believed in developing a pattern of play but not so rigid as to eliminate the individuality of players. Any plan needed to be adapted to the style of players to hand. He also believed that fitness work ought to be completed early in a year in order to allow plenty of time for coaching. Man management was vitally important and is even more so today.

He brought another element to the preparation of Galway teams, a strong belief in their right to win, as well as their ability to do so. Up to his time Galway teams had played very well but didn't win very often. He believed that negative conditioning, caused by on-going defeats, develops into an inferiority complex, which undermines players at crucial moments. The 1980 victory was the first All-Ireland to be won since 1923. Farrell worked on the minds of the players to get them to believe that Galway had an equal right to win as the Corks, Tipperarys and Kilkennys.

Farrell resigned after the 1991 championship in which Galway lost badly to Tippeary in the All-Ireland semi-final. He took charge again for the years 1996-1998 but suffered All-Ireland quarter-final defeats in both years and resigned after the 1998 championship.

 

Ger Loughnane (born 1953) Clare

Although Ger Loughnane was noted as a great hurler in a county that was starved of success, it is for his exploits as manager of the Clare senior hurlers in the 1990s that he is best known. His managerial career began in the early 1990s. Following a short period with the under-21s, he succeeded Len Gaynor as manager of the seniors at the end of 1994.

After a winter of intense training Loughnane's side proved their worth by reaching the final of the National Hurling League. Kilkenny hammered Clare on that occasion but Loughnane stated that Clare would win the Munster final. Which they did, for the first time since 1932, and then went on to win their first All-Ireland since 1914.

Having lost in 1996 to a late Limerick point in the Munster championship, Clare were back in the winners enclosure in 1997, beating Cork, Tipperary and Kilkenny on the way to the All-Ireland final, in which they defeated Tipperary for a second time, following the introduction of the backdoor system.

Clare might have won again in 1998 but a number of things intervened. In an unruly game against Waterford in the Munster championship, Colin Lynch was sent off and received a three-month suspension. In spite of this Clare won the Munster final and met Offaly in the All-Ireland semi-final. The game ended in a draw, the replay in controversy and Clare lost the second replay.

It marked the end of success for Loughnane's side. The manager remained in position for two more years without success. After a few years, Loughnane took over Galway for two years, 2007-2008, also without success.

Loughnane will always be remembered for having made Clare a meaningful contender for All-Ireland honours. From the time he took over as manager he set out to ensure that his players would be at a high peak of fitness when taking the field. This was achieved by an intense training regimen, much of it done in the dead of winter, which had the effect not only of making them extremely fit, but of strengthening their characters also.

Equally important was the work he did on the minds of the players, constantly harranging them never to accept defeat, encouraging them to believe that they were as good as anybody else and inculcating in them a love of winning and the prospect of a triumphant day in Corke Park. In all of this Loughnane was driven by the memory of numerous failures during his playing years with Clare. To win as manager would be some kind of consolation.

 

Brian Cody (born 1954) Kilkenny

After a successful playing career with the James Stephens club and Kilkenny, which included four Leinster titles, three All-Irelands, two National League and two All-Star awards, plus two All-Ireland club championships, Brian Cody turned his attention to management.

He was appointed in November 1998 for a two-year term. Since then he is the most successful manager in the history of the game winning 12 Leinster hurling championships, nine All-Ireland titles and six National hurling Leagues.

It's difficult to decide what makes him such a successful manager. In his autobiography he speaks of respect, honesty and commitment in everyone involved in the team. He denies that he is an 'intimidating, authoritarian figure ruling the Kilkenny dressingroom with an iron fist and a 'no compromise' sign stuck on my forehead.' Instead the dressingroom is a place of equality where everyone is important, even the person sweeping the floor at the end of training, as Cody has been seen to do himself. He believes that 'being prepared to do just about anything is central to running an effective operation where there are no stars and no egos, only a group of people on the same wavelength.'

In fact 'no stars and no egos' has probably kept the Kilkenny team successful for so long. There are instances where players have been dropped for misdemeanors but also for notions about their importance to the squad. Every player, no matter how successful, is only a very small part of something so much bigger.

Cody leads by example and expects every player to give good example. For him there is no arrogance in Kilkenny hurling. The players don't show disrespect to an opponent. They know the standards that must be reached and maintained if they're to get the best out of their careers. Another expectation is that players give the same commitment to the club as the county.

He cranks up the competitive edge in the panel by introducing new players. When this happens older players recognise that new talent is coming along all the time with the sole intention of forcing their way onto the team. It's all very friendly but there is huge rivalry also and Cody acts as a kind of referee between the competing talents with only one duty, which is to put the best panel together. 'The spark of rivalry between established players and newcomers is great for business and helps keep things fresh and challenging, which is crucial in the dressing room dynamic.'

In fact Cody seems to incorporate in his outlook the old virtues associated with the G.A.A. It is an honour to play for your club and your county and you respect that every time you play. You give your best on every occasion and you are unselfish in your commitment. The game of hurling comes first and the manager has made little concession to the commercial possibilities of his success, keeping the players on the straight and narrow for the success of Kilkenny.

 


Feb 2014