Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA

Grimley reveals doubt as McGeeney's tipped to take over

By Declan Bogue

It was within his post-match quotes on Saturday that Armagh manager Paul Grimley planted a seed of doubt about his future as Armagh county manager. Only last month, speculation emerged that Grimley would be stepping down at the end of this Championship campaign, to be replaced by Kieran McGeeney.

He appeared to do little to quell that at the time, and when asked directly about it on Saturday, answered: "Obviously there is work to be done and it's important that the progress which has been made can be built upon.

"My position is irrelevant at the moment. There is no better man to take Armagh forward than Kieran McGeeney if that is the case but we will see.

"I have a lot of people to talk to including the management team and the Armagh county board. I will be happy to do what the Armagh county board want me to do."

However, in stating that he would be happy to do as directed by the county board, there is a growing feeling that Grimley may be involved in a different capacity next year.

It's well-known that in 2012 at the time Paddy O'Rourke stepped down from the role, Grimley favoured a member of the 2002 All-Ireland winning team to become manager, saying at the time: "My preference would be for one of the lads from the 2002 team to take over ... guys like 'Geezer' (Kieran McGeeney), Tony McEntee, Justin McNulty or Aidan O'Rourke would have all the capabilities to do a very good job."

He also added: "I would be willing to act as a caretaker manager or something like that until someone was appointed on a long-term basis."

Once the clubs of Kildare voted against granting Kieran McGeeney a seventh year in charge of their county side, it allowed Grimley to graft the 2002 captain onto the management last winter. Much has been made of McGeeney's contribution, and while one well-placed source maintains that McGeeney's succession to the throne has not been discussed with Grimley in depth before Saturday, others maintain that a handover has already been agreed.

John McEntee, another member of the 2002 team, is not so sure.

"My understanding is that Paul has a three-year contract," said the current Crossmaglen co-manager, along with Oisín McConville.

"It's effectively his choice. Last year wasn't a good year, this year was a better year and he has the option of bowing out, having restored some pride in the county. There is a strong possibility that he might want to leave on a winning note."

McEntee continued: "He brought Kieran McGeeney in to bolster Armagh, and yes, probably as a form of succession plan for the future.

"Kieran has come in under the pretence that he is there to help Armagh and with the likelihood that he would take over the role at some stage or another. Everybody presumes that he would be there for one year and then take over next year. But it's really at the whim of Paul Grimley."

That choice could mean Grimley recasting himself as a coach.

Paddy McKeever, another member of the 2002 team, feels Grimley: "Owed us nothing when he left us after his first spell in charge, and he owes us nothing now."

He added: "In typically humble fashion, Paul's decision will be based on what is best for Armagh. He unselfishly paved the way for Kieran's return and brought a passion back to Armagh football at all levels. Whatever his decision, it should be respected."

For those who are fond of labels such as 'manager', 'assistant-manager' and 'selector', this may sound unorthodox, but in truth the roles performed by various members of a county management team have been fluid for many years.

There's no doubt that Grimley would have been tempted into remaining with the county after the encouraging performances over the last few weeks.

He touched on this on Saturday also. "I said this would be a three or four-year job and that's how it is proving.

"There is still work to do but part of the process is learning to cope with results like this.

"For four or five years before Armagh became successful they had to learn to handle the disappointment that results like this brings and the present team must now take this on board as they mature."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph