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Joe Kernan: Backroom team worth the money


Jim McGuinness (left) led Donegal to the All Ireland semi-finals last year

Jim McGuinness (left) led Donegal to the All Ireland semi-finals last year

©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Jim McGuinness (left) led Donegal to the All Ireland semi-finals last year

The team behind the team can often prove the Achilles heel of any county board’s annual financial returns.

At a time when more and more counties are engulfed in the economic mire, dissecting the overall costs involved in preparing and administering teams has become a necessity rather than an option.

Times have certainly changed from when a county team boss was just that — he was in charge of the side both on and off the field of play.

Things have changed drastically, though, in recent years. Now the manager usually finds himself at the helm of an operation that can embrace upwards of 60 people including his playing squad.

And not surprisingly the costs associated with preparing county teams in both football and hurling have for the most part gone through the roof.

No wonder some treasurers suffer from apoplexy when they are asked to shell out for a variety of services all of which are ostensibly designed to improve both the skills and fitness of a county team.

Most managers now have backroom teams that encompass a video analyst, statisticians, a doctor, at least two physiotherapists, a strength and conditioning coach, a sports psychologist and perhaps two dieticians.

And that’s on top of a trainer, two selectors, a liaison officer and a masseur.

Then there are a variety of people such as bus drivers, kit men and advisors all of whom go to make up a supporting army to the county team.

Even with such a deep pool of personnel, success is anything but guaranteed.

Yet everything has to be in place so that issues can be dealt with as they crop up and the welfare of players can be assured.

It is accepted that a team manager cannot be a doctor, counsellor, accountant or psycho-analyst.

His job is to get the best results possible with the playing resources he has at his disposal.

Consequently he is forced to beef up his management team to ensure that preparation for matches is efficient and adequate.

Ultimately, the manager is responsible for the entire set-up — the buck stops with him.

And when a county board starts to ask questions about financial aspects of a team’s preparations these will invariably be directed at the manager.

It is taken for granted in the modern game that a manager will require every possible aid in the quest for success.

When Dublin won the All-Ireland final last year nothing was left to chance and when Donegal emerged from the wilderness to land their first Ulster crown in 19 years it was revealed that manager Jim McGuinness had planned everything down to the most trivial detail.

Success meant of course that nothing was questioned, the end clearly justifying the means in this context.

A good backroom team can play a big part in helping to achieve success. If a manager has people round him whom he feels he can trust and who are recognised as accomplished in their chosen fields, then he is onto a winner.

The manager’s primary brief is to get all his players, backroom team and county board singing from the same hymn sheet — and, believe me, this is not easy.

Recently, it has become clear that in some counties the clubs are seeking to have a say in the manner in which the county team is being managed, financed and administered.

To me this is anathema. A county team manager is in all probability appointed by a county board and that’s the body to which he should be answerable at all times irrespective of how his team is doing.

There is absolutely no necessity for clubs to get involved. The manager should be allowed to get on with the job.

Good communication between a manager and his backroom team is essential if success is to be attained.

Nothing can be left to chance — it’s important that even the most trivial of matters should be tackled and solved as quickly as possible.

Senior county team management is currently a 24/7 occupation, there is no doubt about that.

Sure, a manager may be going about his daily business but you can rest assured that his mind will be fully occupied with team selection options and injury worries rather than on the job which helps to provide for his wife and family.

The manager’s job is a lonely role — when he does well he is a hero but when results go against him he will be the butt of bitter abuse and even physical attack.

The next time you see a side lifting a major trophy take a look at those surrounding the manager and remember they would have played a big part in helping to bring about silverware.

Belfast Telegraph

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