Former Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney landed one of the toughest posts in football management when he was formally ratified as the new boss of Meath last night.
The Corduff clubman secured a three-year term, to be reviewed after two years, on a rather surprising 53-19 vote, given that Royal county native Gerry Cooney had been expected to poll strongly in the two-horse race.
The Meath administration had come in for strong criticism for its handling of the appointment process that saw last Wednesday’s board meeting cancelled at the eleventh hour and subsequent confirmation that, contrary to media reports, McEnaney’s initial recommendation for the job by the three-man selection committee had been unanimous.
If the Meath board has been left with egg on its face, McEnaney has scored a significant coup, his spirit and strength of character enabling him to overcome what many perceive to have been a rather sinister backdrop against which his appointment was finally made.
The fact that the Meath board had dispensed with Eamon O’Brien, who had taken the county to the Leinster title this year and to the closing stages of the All-Ireland series in each of the last two years, suggested that confirmation of his replacement would not be a straightforward process.
Even Meath secretary Cyril Creavin flayed his fellow-officers last night by declaring: “This process has gone on for far too long and it means that Meath are seen to be dragging their feet. I’m sure you will find that most players in other counties have already been provided with training programmes. I’m glad that this matter has now been put to bed.”
McEnaney, who was in charge of Monaghan for six years and is a brother of leading referee Pat McEnaney, had been considered a strong candidate for the Meath post from the outset but when Cooney threw his hat into the ring it was thought then that county board delegates might prefer to adhere to tradition and vote for a home-grown manager.
Instead, they threw their weight behind McEnaney who becomes the third Ulsterman to be at the helm of a Leinster side, joining Kieran McGeeney (Kildare) and Justin McNulty (Laois).
It had been thought that he might be forced into making changes in his backroom team but it is understood that Paul Grimley from Armagh and Tyrone’s Martin McElkennon will continue to be part of his managerial set-up.