Two Ulster managers who have been under fire in recent months go head-to-head tomorrow in a contest that will define their futures.
No manager had to fight harder and show greater resolve in a bid to retain his position than Meath boss Seamus McEnaney who even before a ball was kicked this year endured an ignominious ‘no confidence’ vote from club delegates.
And when Laois made a premature exit from the Leinster Championship at the hands of Longford, manager Justin McNulty found himself the butt of criticism that has only marginally abated following rather hollow qualifier wins over Carlow and Leitrim.
Little wonder then that tomorrow’s shoot-out at O’Connor Park, Tullamore could have repercussions for the loser in a week in which another Ulster native, Waterford boss John Owens who hails from Down, has already called time on his role.
McEnaney finds himself in pole position for tomorrow’s crucial fourth round qualifying tie on the back of his team’s stunning six-point win over Kildare in the Leinster semi-final and their feisty offering against Dublin in last weekend’s Leinster final.
If players such as Conor Gillespie and Damien Carroll — who had stepped up to the mark in such splendid fashion against the Lily Whites — found the Dubs rather too streetwise for their enthusiastic endeavours, then McEnaney is hopeful that the fruits of their labours will be seen to better effect tomorrow.
In much the same way, McNulty, an All-Ireland winner with Armagh in 2002, will look to his newer faces to support the more seasoned Padraig Clancy, Ross Munnelly, Brendan Quigley, Colm Begley and Billy Sheehan.
With just two Ulster sides, Down and Donegal, left standing in the last 12 it will be a pity to see further provincial interest removed from the race for Sam.