A few months into his second stint as Tipperary hurling manager, Liam Sheedy was asked how much change he had observed from his first term in 2008-2010.
“We’re not far off needing a second bus at this stage, that’s one thing anyway,” he remarked in reference to the vastly increased backroom personnel that have now become an accepted part of most county regimes.
Whether it’s down to imitation or persuasion by vested interests peddling their various ‘expert’ wares, ‘more’ appears to have been redefined as ‘better’ in the modern lexicon of GAA management.
And then there are the surprise appointments, ones that make you wonder: ‘What the hell is that about?’
Kieran McGeeney joining Tipperary hurlers as ‘a performance consultant’ a few months after being voted out as Kildare football manager in late 2013 comes to mind.
“He’s coming to work with us in the whole area of performance improvement. He’s a proven winner,” said Eamon O’Shea, then Tipp manager.
The appointment mystified many Tipperary supporters. Wasn’t it management’s job to improve performance and, as for proven winners, weren’t there more of them back home in Tipperary than Armagh.
Unfortunately for Tipperary, McGeeney’s influence didn’t have the required impact and they ended 2014 in a familiar position – second best to Kilkenny. Presumably, recruiting across the border in Kilkenny, a county overflowing with “proven winners”, hadn’t featured in Tipperary’s thinking.
One suspects the same applies in Galway, where the arrival of Kieran Donaghy in maroon-and-white gear has been a major talking point.
According to manager Micheál Donoghue, the Kerryman has been brought in for “his personality and expertise”, gained over long careers in football and basketball.
“There are obviously some things he can help us with. I’ve brought in different people at different times from outside the box and when I was thinking about it, I thought of him.
“He’s somebody that commands massive respect and is recognised for what he has achieved and his character and personality is something that can be grasped onto straight away,” said Donoghue.
Question is, of course, why does he feel that Galway need an injection of “character and personality”?
As for what Donaghy has achieved, it’s actually the same as Galway hurlers, only done more often.
So, if how to replicate All-Ireland success is one of the areas Donaghy will work on, here’s a thought: why not recruit among former Kilkenny hurlers?
They have done it so often through this Millennium that it’s second nature, which means there are lots of them expertly versed in the elusive art of maintaining standards at the highest level over an extended period. And since Galway felt the awesome force of their obsession more often than most, a Kilkenny voice in the camp wouldn’t just be useful from an experience viewpoint but also from a technical perspective.
How useful would it be for Galway to tap into the experience of Henry Shefflin, DJ Carey, Brian Hogan, Michael Fennelly, Jackie Tyrrell, Eoin Larkin or some other clever Cat?
They would offer more than generic motivation, instead bringing specific knowledge, not just of hurling but also about Galway.
Joe Canning might find Donaghy very interesting, but will be it anywhere nearly as useful to him as a few hours with Shefflin or Carey?
And how productive would it be for Galway to have Hogan, a superb defender who never got due credit outside of Kilkenny for his excellence, drilling Galway backs in the new challenges that face teams who have been successful?
Those boys learned an awful lot from Brian Cody, whose record in getting teams and tactics right over many years scarcely needs elucidating. That’s an additional bonus which a Kilkenny recruit would bring.
Now, there are many in Galway who feel that if the squad were good enough to win All-Ireland and league titles in 2017, there’s no need for outside influences to be added to the mix. In other words, be self-reliant.
It’s a fair point, but management have decided otherwise by opting for Donaghy as their ‘left-field’ choice.
It’s sure to attract lots of media coverage as the season progresses and if Galway win the All-Ireland, Donaghy’s stature will soar. If they don’t, his presence in the camp will be disregarded.
That’s the way it works. Psychologists, trainers and assorted motivational types get credit when a team wins, but carry no responsibility when they don’t.
An expensive industry has grown around this area, covering a wide range of various gurus, most of whom are experts in self-promotion.
Of course there are more failures than successes but that’s ignored.
Good luck to Kieran Donaghy in his role with Galway. It’s new territory for him, a chance to gain experience away from Kerry and football.
It will be beneficial for him, perhaps less so for Galway. Are the players asking themselves why management felt it necessary to bring in a recently-retired Kerry footballer to work with a group that has already won an All-Ireland and are favourites for this year’s title too.
They might also wonder why if Donaghy’s “character and personality” has so deeply impressed Galway management, new Kerry boss Peter Keane didn’t give him a role in the Kingdom’s rebuild.
A final point. When Joe Canning retires, can you see him being invited into Kerry footballers’ backroom for the following season? Somehow, I doubt it.