Jack O'Connor, former Kildare senior manager
Who would have thought, or expected, Kildare would be searching for a new senior football manager with Jack O'Connor having fulfilled just two of his three year term, albeit with a review after two.
O'Connor's term in Kildare can be deemed successful, gaining promotion to the top table of the Alliance Football League while also qualifying for the 2021 Leinster SFC final, and while that decider did not go as Kildare had hoped, nevertheless it was looked upon as a real stepping-stone, an opportunity, for the younger players especially, to gain vital experience.
Following that game, manager O'Connor said he was looking forward to 2022 and especially playing in Division 1 of the AFL “where all the teams with ambition play” adding playing in Division 1 is also the ideal preparation for championship.”
While O'Connor did admit, on more than one occasion, that the drive from his home in south Kerry to Kildare was a huge burden, it was felt he would stay, for at least one more year, especially as discussions had taken place with county board officials to “simply tidy-up a few loose strings.”
The announcement that he had decided to step away, did take county chairman, Mick Gorman, by surprise, especially after conducting those meetings with the Kerry native prior to his decision to quit.
Have no doubt that while the long journey to Kildare was a factor the main ingredient was something entirely different.
The result of the Kerry v Tyrone All-Ireland semi final was the game changer with O'Connor making no secret of the fact that he would be very interested in taking charge of his native county once again, having already landed them three All-Ireland titles.
The current Kerry boss, Peter Keane's three year term has come to an end; and he, along with other interested parties, have been asked to re-apply for the position of manager.
Of course one must remember that there are more politics involved in GAA than there are in Dáil Éireann and it will indeed be very interesting to see how that particular scenario pans out.
For now though, and from a Kildare point of view, there is only one item on the agenda, and that is the appointment of a new boss.
Co Board Chairman, Mick Gorman, and his management committee have moved swiftly to get proceedings under way, proceedings that the chairman insists will be fair, transparent with only one aim, “to get the right person for the role of county manager.”
With that in mind Michael McGeehan is the consultant brought in to oversee the process. Director of Sport with Sport Ireland the Letterkenny native has been involved with many counties in a similar role, while he is also an accomplished coach, he brings to the table total neutrality with no agenda, hidden or otherwise, and it is an appointment that has to be welcomed and should help to alleviate any doubts and concerns that perspective candidates, and indeed the general Kildare public, might have of the process.
Sitting with McGeehan on the interview committee is Mick Gorman, Board Chairman; Colm Farrell, Board Vice and County treasurer, Alan Dunney. Also involved in an administrative role will be County Secretary Christine Murray and Operations Manager, Cormac Kirwan.
There is little doubt that managing Kildare senior footballers is an attractive job, as already stated playing in Division 1 in 2022 is a huge incentive and while is will be a daunting task to keep Kildare in that Division come next season, it is without question a task that will attract many, from both inside and outside the county of Kildare.
On the local front the three names expected to be leading the way include former great Glenn Ryan, who has had success with the U21 squad and with Longford senior footballers; U20 manager of 2018 Davy Burke who led Kildare to All-Ireland honours, along with club success, while Tom Cribbin an experienced county manager who has been involved with Kildare in many roles down the years, has managed various counties at senior level and was of course one of Jack O'Connor's selectors.
The fact that an outside neutral and totally impartial person such as Michael McGeehan will be heavily involved should also ensure that qualified people can have confidence that the appointment will be fair, impartial and totally transparent.
Kildare's track record in recent times in this regard has often been called into question.
Contacting (certain) people in the past has been shown to be nothing but a box ticking operation and that cannot, and must not, happen again.
All those interested in the post must have full confidence, whether they are from within, or without the county, that the process will be fair, honest and true.
It had been suggested in some quarters that who ever is appointed would have to retain the services of the backroom team that Jack O'Connor had but that has been absolutely denied by chairman Gorman.
“The person appointed will have full and unequivocal authority to bring in his own backroom team, as it should be” he told the Leinster Leader last week.
Michael McGeehan's role will be on an expenses based contract, with no fee involved.
The process and interviews are expected to get under way immediately.
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