It also came as a bolt from the blue for my family and close friends.
It was hardly a state secret that my wife, Patricia, wasn’t too excited by the prospect of me managing Meath and wanted a quiet life away from all the hype that went with it.
When she agreed to go with it, the decision became much easier. Patricia is the source of rock and common sense in our family while I go on solo runs.
The final details were to be put forth last Monday morning and I was very clear in my thinking that the Meath County Board of Management Committee should be the first to know, after the other candidates were interviewed.
These are etiquettes of doing things right. The board then issued a statement and as word spread, the lessons began to come in thicker and faster.
It is important to have friends with a sense of humour. One informed me that he knew an eminent psychiatrist while the other thought of coming for hours, as I was clearly very unwell.
The whole week’s stream of wishes had completely taken me by surprise. I realize that the people of Meath want to bring back success in some form or the other and I sincerely hope that the performance on the field can fulfill the expectations. Management is a result business.
Meath supporters of my era judge us on beating Dublin and winning leagues and championships. It shouldn’t be any different now. People may say you should never bite a stick to kill yourself, but
Anything less than being competitive with Dublin can only be described as a failure.
The Dubs have long closed the door on Meath – and everyone else – in Leinster, so a mark needs to be made there. Yet the next year’s changed competition format, in a way, renders the provincial championship largely irrelevant in the larger scheme of things. Groups of four, drawn after the provincial championships, are where the real action will take place.
Many may wonder why I would manage to meth at this stage of my life. Football has always been my passion in terms of sports.
I love almost all sports, especially hurling, horse racing, rugby, soccer, Australian rules and cricket, while family vacations in the United States are always basketball, American football or baseball.
You can learn from all games. Gaelic football is a great sport despite all its shortcomings.
I only wanted to play football growing up and I was lucky to play with a great club in Screene and then for Meath.
Neither side got any success in my early years. I lost the first five senior finals I played for Screen, although fortunately some victories came later in my career.
The same pattern happened with meth. I started in 1975 and our first Leinster win was in 1986, so the apprenticeship at club and county level was long and there were many disappointments.
Perhaps it taught perseverance and resilience, two qualities that are definitely needed now. So a career that had some big victories can look iconic while hiding several days of intense and bitter disappointment.
In many ways I have very old-fashioned values. Loyalty is one of them. My father and mother moved from Leitrim to Meath with a family of 12 in 1966.
I was the second youngest. My eldest brother, Fergus, now passed, played senior for Leitrim for several years, but Meath was at home and offered great opportunities in education, employment and sports. I value those things.
Making a poor boy’s million may not be the American dream, but I’m certainly proud to have worn my county jersey for 20 years, being the principal of St. Patrick’s Classical School in Navan and seeing many of my family continue to live in this county . And the sport of meth is making a significant contribution to the cultural, social and economic life.
So giving back is part of what we were taught, and we have never forgotten it.
Joining management is hardly a new thing, as I have been managing some team at school or club or both for 40 years.
We had some good days with St. Pat and I was involved with Ray Mooney as a selector when Screene ended years of despair and won a championship in 1992 and again in ’93.
Then there was the success of Simonstown in 2016 and ’17, winning our first senior championship.
So I’ve been a man of two clubs, playing for one and managing the other where I live now. It was very special to win the championship as a manager playing with my own son Shane.
Now I am faced with a huge job with Meath. For the past 20 years every manager has put an ounce of their fiber into it and it hasn’t worked.
Everyone has worked honestly and only want Meath to succeed. It is no different for horses. Management of humans and animals can make a fool of man.
In some ways I benefit from the experience of management in the school. The important thing is to have a group dynamic and to get people who know more than me (not hard) and let them do their job.
Maybe even more. actively encouraging them. I try to surround myself with people who are bright, positive and good-natured.
People who are willing to try things and if they don’t work out, they know they can do it again in a different way. All in the spirit of trust and goodwill. (Am I starting to sound like an American management guru?)
I am delighted to have Barry Callaghan and Stephen Bray join me on this journey as selectors and equal partners.
In addition to being an All-Ireland champ, Barry has spent many years coaching at various levels. He knows most of the players in the myth and is a student of all modern systems of the game.
Stephen was the last Meaths All-Star and played for his club until last year.
He was the best club and county forward for more than a decade and has a reputation and reputation among the Meath people for hard work, honesty and commitment – all qualities essential to great players.
This is a great starting point for men of such potential that will help create a positive environment.
Another important aspect of good management is not being afraid to seek help.
It has already been widely introduced and will be taken up. From past players, from managers, both inside and outside the county, even business consultants.
There is something to be learned from all of them – every day is a school day.
Of course I can also turn to Sean Boylan. He will have open access to the team as a mentor, mentor, motivator or whatever he wants to be. He makes people feel good about himself and young people like him. This is another component of good management. It makes things a lot easier if you treat people well.
It won’t be all sweet and light. County football is brutal, with players being fired, replaced or not playing at all.
They feel hurt, embarrassed, angry and many other things so there will be casualties along the way. His family and friends are affected. Good communication can help, but sometimes there’s no good way.
If we have to look for inspiration in the myth it can come from our women’s team. His win last year and hopefully again today gave the county a big lift.
He became the new hero and has helped inspire countless young boys and girls to get involved in football. His legacy will last for years. We should expect to do the same.
In this journey I hope we will create a healthy sporting environment where players can find the right balance between family, sports, leisure, education and work.
It can’t happen every night of the week or it becomes more like work than vacation. Players must be doing something almost every day, but that doesn’t mean coming together to do it.
If players can’t be trusted to do some training of their own then we’re not going anywhere and regular testing will clearly indicate that anyway.
Connecting with it even after 40 years has taught me a lot. Young people in general are not as resilient as previous generations.
They are more mindful. There is nothing wrong with that, except there may be an issue of decision making. Their phones are their reality.
Social media can be a disease and while there are a lot of toxic punches around, too many of them remain.
Should anyone care what the unknown lunges are saying?
Ultimately, we will need youngsters who take individual responsibility, who believe in themselves in the team and will try to add rather than see some of it. If they can play football it will be a bonus.
A lot of issues will arise and there are players and supporters of other counties who want to give them as soon as possible based on the comments I have made in my many years of writing. sunday freeor working on sunday game,
Funny enough, it never emerged as the manager of Simonstown in the hottest of club matches.
In terms of players, we will take a deep journey of myth football through senior, intermediate and junior clubs.
Surely there are some rough diamonds in there. Teams need a good goalkeeper, a free-taker, a redhead, and at least one farmer to accompany the 30-year-old students.
They shouldn’t be hard to find in a county with such history and tradition. Hopefully the trip will have more than just funny laughs.