'I have yet to see a GAA manager drive a Porsche'
Published 21/02/2012 | 06:00
According to the AA's route planner, Jerry Wallace drives 430 kilometres in an estimated time of four hours and 50 minutes from his home in east Cork to Belfast's Casement Park to conduct his role as Antrim hurling manager.
It ranks right up there with some of the epic managerial journeys of the past, Mick O'Dwyer from Waterville to Wicklow, Val Andrews and Pat Flanagan's sorties out of Tralee to Cavan during Andrews' original stint there and even Dinny Cahill's devotion to Antrim which took him from his north Tipperary base.
If he was to do the journey three times a week using GAA mileage rates, and claim the regular subsistence allowances, Wallace would be entitled to well in excess of €800 per week.
Yet the idea that he should be paid for what he does with Antrim is not something he can reconcile with.
"I've heard about these under-the-table payments, but I've yet to meet anyone that is benefiting, or anyone who is flaithuil with these payments," he said. "I have yet to see a manager who's driving around in a Porsche car or anything like that.
"I remember listening to an interview lately where Ken Hogan was travelling up to Croke Park -- he's training Coolderry, getting them ready for an All-Ireland final -- and his car broke down. He wasn't driving a sponsor's car, and that just shows. He's doing it because he loves the game.
"Until someone comes out and substantiates these claims of massive payments, I'm still not convinced. I have yet to come across it."
Funding a manager is a challenge most county boards would fail to meet even if the rules were changed, he argues: "I'm now in charge of an inter-county team and I see the costs we're incurring. I can tell you that for the last two months all we've had is outgoings. We've had no income -- that's the reality of what's there.
"Maybe Croke Park or someone at a higher level wants to establish a trial system in place for a couple of years in a few counties and put a structure in place where they would get a few managers in with a full set-up.
"But if the GAA decide to go down the road of paying managers, you're into a new scenario. You have employment contracts, other issues. How do you get rid of a manager who's being paid?"
Managing an inter-county hurling team in his own right is something you sense Wallace has been keen to do for some time. Was this the only opportunity he was likely to get?
"I've been told that I wouldn't have got a manager's job in any other part of Ireland in the hurling world," he said. "Some people are saying I took this because I wouldn't have got a manager's job elsewhere. That's a debatable question, to which I alone know the answer.
"There was unfinished business in Antrim from my own perspective. I was there two years ago when my good friend Donal O'Grady went to Limerick. There was kind of an agreement there, dating back to 2004, that if he went back into inter-county management I'd support him. When he rang last year to tell me he was taking on the Limerick position I knew then I'd have to leave Antrim.
"Three players came down from Antrim to my home in Cork and pleaded with me to come back up, stay involved with Dinny's (Cahill) management team and give it another year. But I had given that commitment (to Donal)."
With Antrim he feels that getting the structures right must be a priority and cited the example of 30 players outside the senior squad going to Derry last night for a development challenge.
He reminds you about how close Antrim just might be.
"Go back to just two years ago, Dublin played Antrim here in Croke Park and lost. If you're working at ground level with the players you realise that Antrim are as well placed as Dublin are at this moment in time.
"If the players can get over the lack of self-belief, that's the only thing that's telling against them," he said.