‘Everyone starts from scratch’ – managerial changes aplenty as 2021 season takes shape

THE PERIOD OF change is upon us in ladies football.

While managerial changes have been in full flow in the men’s game for quite some time now, switch-up season in its female equivalent usually catches fire in January.

Shane Ronayne and Peter Leahy are two notable recent departures from the ladies football managerial scene.

Source: Inpho.

News filtered through on Monday night that Waterford had become the last men’s football county to appoint a manager for 2021. The new man at the helm? Former Tipperary ladies boss and Mourneabbey mastermind Shane Ronayne.

The next morning, Peter Leahy confirmed that he was leaving his post as Mayo ladies manager after a colourful tenure having joined Bernard Flynn’s star-studded Meath U20 backroom team.

These are just two of the latest ladies football managerial changes, with new beginnings around the corner in Mayo and Tipperary. Galway is another county preparing for the next chapter, following the recent departure of Tim Rabbitt.

While it was recently confirmed that Maxi Curran was staying in charge of Donegal, The42 understands that Cork boss Ephie Fitzgerald is also remaining in situ on Leeside, and there’s been no word from four-in-a-row All-Ireland champions Dublin on Mick Bohan’s future just yet.

The renowned coach is widely expected to head up the Drive for Five, though, and continue to excellent work he has done with the Sky Blues of late.

That said, like life itself, sport is fickle, and change could come at any moment. 

And sometimes, that change is for the best, as Leahy told Mid West Radio in the wake of his Mayo departure.

“I just felt I needed to make a change for me personally with the travelling up and down, and all the things that transpired in Mayo over the last 12 months,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think it will be healthy for the players to make a change.”

Topsy-turvy is how he summed up his overall experience at the helm. From the mass player walkout in 2018 and the lengthy saga that followed, to the ongoing county board crisis, that summation could be seen as an understatement. There’s never been a dull moment.

While matters off the pitch are often more publicised, the Westerners have been chipping away on it and clawing their way back to the top. The young outfit were but a kick of a ball away from the 2019 All-Ireland final, and while Armagh — who themselves have added former Kildare goalkeeper Shane McCormack to Ronan Murphy to their set-up — beat them to a semi-final spot in last year’s condensed campaign, there’s no doubt that they’ll be back in the mix in 2021.

Peter Leahy with Sarah Rowe.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“It’s exciting to have a new chapter,” Sarah Rowe tells The42 from Australia, as she prepares for her third AFLW season with Collingwood. “It’s always good to have a new voice.

“Obviously you’d be disappointed to see coaches that you built relationships with leave, but also grateful for their time and what they’ve done for Mayo to date. It’s been great.

“It’s more looking forward. It’s always great when you get a new coach because when you get a new coach it puts everyone in the exact same position, everyone has to start from scratch and everyone ultimately has to impress. It’s really good for team culture because it gets really competitive, even more so than it was before because you don’t live off what you did before, how your fitness test went last year, or where you’re based at.

“Everyone starts from scratch. The starting line is the same for everyone so I just think that’s always really refreshing. I’m really looking forward to figuring out who it will be. The girls have already taken ownership of what’s next as well, it’s really important that it’s player-driven at this point because that’s ultimately what drives a team’s success.”

Keeping with this weeks’ other big ladies football news, Tipperary dual star Aishling Moloney also shared the tinge of sadness in the football set-up as Ronayne takes the reins elsewhere. 

The Mitchelstown man’s departure from the Premier county was announced in December, drawing the curtain on the meteoric four-year rise he oversaw.

Four national titles — two of those All-Ireland intermediate crowns in 2017 and 2019 — in as many years were delivered under his tutelage, while he’s also steered Mourneabbey to back-to-back All-Ireland club titles after years of final heartbreak.

Moloney — who’s currently recovering from a meniscal tear, but planning to again play dual in 2021 — paid tribute to Ronayne, who she points out has been her manager for 11 years between school in Cahir and county.

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“Shane has done excellent work, he’s turned Tipperary ladies inside out. We were in Division 3 a few years back, struggling to get out, now we’re in Division 1. He’s brought us a long way. We can’t be more appreciative of everything he’s done for us.

Shane Ronayne and Aishling Moloney.

Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“Even for me, on a personal level, he’s done a lot for me. I think it’s going to be really weird, a new management, it’s going to be very strange. I’d nearly know Shane on a personal level.

“It’s going to be really different, a big challenge for us all. I haven’t really thought about it yet.”

All-Ireland winning hurling captain Declan Carr is set to be ratified as the new boss next Monday night, with the vastly experienced Colm Bonnar, who recently stepped down as Carlow hurling manager, part of his backroom team. 

“Declan Carr’s is a name being thrown around, obviously a very high profile person,” Moloney adds. “Look, it’s nothing but excitement. New voices, everyone’s on the same page, you have to work hard for your place, you don’t know where you’re going to be put.

“I probably got away with it the last few years, in full-forward being lazy, I could be put out in midfield now,” she laughs. “It’s a new start, a fresh start.”

Cavan is another county enjoying a fresh start, with Tyrone’s 2018 All-Ireland intermediate winning boss Gerry Moane in the hot-seat after James Daly’s exit.

The Fermanagh native envisages a bright future for the Breffni outfit, who have excelled at underage level of late and have been holding their own in the senior ranks and in Division 2.

And while Aishling Sheridan, like Rowe, is currently concentrating on the 2021 AFLW season with Collingwood, she’s looking forward to hopefully returning to a new set-up in Cavan when all is said and done in Australia by the end of April.

“Our focus is on this, but we’ll both be delighted to get back home. I know last year we went straight into lockdown but it worked well in our favour. I obviously don’t know what way things will go when I get home but it will be nice to have a change of scenery.

Cavan’s new manager Gerry Moane.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“As Sarah said, you’d be sad to see someone go especially when they’ve spent a few years with a team. It’s sad to see that happen but again, it’s nice to have something fresh come in. A lot of new girls come in and commit to it, so yeah, it will be exciting.”

Like in all Gaelic games codes amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, uncertainty reigns as the 2021 season takes shape.

A reduced league competition is expected in a revamped inter-county season. It’s understood that the four divisions will all be geographically split in two with round one due to be played the weekend of 20/21 February, while provincial championships will be played across April and May.

The rest of May until mid-July is expected to be strictly for club games, with concerns already being raised surrounding a potential clash with the Leaving Cert.

But everything is subject to change at the minute. Sport, like life itself, is certainly fickle.

***

Sarah Rowe, Aishling Moloney and Aishling Sheridan were speaking to The42 on an Instagram Live to promote free fitness classes being offered by Dingle-based gym D-Movement in aid of local charities.

Subscribe to The42′s new member-led GAA Championship show with Marc Ó Sé and Shane Dowling. 

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