Boyle has real concerns as boss hunt continues

By Frank Craig

Manus Boyle says the appointment of the next Donegal senior football boss has to have the overall welfare of the game, within the county, at its fulcrum.

The 1992 legend has warned that quick fixes or marquee outside names will only lead Donegal further down what he believes is an already wayward path. Ever since Declan Bonner stepped away back in June, a complete veil of secrecy has shrouded the entire process of finding a successor.


Still, with some big hitters like Jim McGuinness and Malachy O’Rourke not interested in the position, and with nominations reportedly minimal; the task to find the right individual appears like it’s going to be even trickier than originally anticipated.

“There has been four weeks of intense club championship games but the spotlight will probably come back onto this in a big way now,” said Boyle. “There is little or nothing out there, officially or on the record at least. And that’s a pretty new phenomenon for Donegal!

“I don’t think it’s a huge secret that there aren’t that many in for the job. And while it’s one thing for the media to be speculating, maybe the appetite isn’t there or at least what we expected it to be.

“There is a certain expectation now when you take on the Donegal job. Look at Declan, in the end people turned on him. He got a lot of abuse online, on social media. That’s the world we live in. And the kind of scrutiny that comes with the Donegal job now – if it’s not going how supporters want it to go – is savage.

“Since 2011, when Jim McGuinness came on board, they’ve got used to the Anglo Celt crossing the bridge in Pettigo every other year. That’s the basic expectation now, realistic or not.”

Boyle – who is part of the Killybegs management team this term – explains that Donegal’s intentions are best served by looking at a long-term structure – a line of succession even – where prospective senior football bosses work their way up through the ranks. And that same person also needs to have an input and, indeed interest, in how the domestic club scene is structured within the county.

“There is a criticism I have in relation to the way we structure our underage managers. If you are an underage manager with the 17s or 20s, you should automatically be a selector with the senior set-up. Or you should at least be involved in some capacity.


“We have development squads as a route for players to progress onto senior. Why can’t we do that with our managers? Jim McGuinness did that with the Under 21s and second time around for Declan, he worked up through the age brackets. It’s practical and it makes sense.

“The fact is, the guys that have been in charge of our underage sides for the last five, six or whatever years simply will not get a look in in this process right now. There is something wrong with that.

“And I know there is a certain clamour for the likes of a Karl Lacey or Rory Kavanagh to go straight in at senior. There is no doubt they know their stuff and have already earned the right to be in the discussion. But there is huge risk in that kind of approach because if they have a bad experience then they are lost to us completely. Rory has one season under his belt at St Eunan’s and it’s a brilliant learning curve that should be allowed to continue, I feel.

“They need time and space to gain experience, make mistakes and, for want of a better phrase, develop that kind of thick skin that’s now needed at the very top of inter-county management. Look at the age profile of the managers now in the big jobs. They are all 50 plus. Jim Gavin, Jack O’Connor, Dessie Farrell, Kevin McStay and so on.”

He added: “Say we do take in an outsider, there are issues with that. There is a good chance he has no real understanding of our club structure in Donegal. Their only concern, understandably, is getting results and the senior team. Our club structure needs serious attention. A 12-game league isn’t enough. Our reserve structure is out the window. That needs to be addressed. If you take a root and branch look at where Donegal football is at, it’s not good.

“We have a situation now where county players are together for six months, under their own strength and conditioning and training regime.

“When they come back into their clubs, they are then expected to do the exact same thing – under a different set of plans. In terms of player welfare, it’s madness. Players want longevity to their careers. But if we keep going the way we are, then so many of these lads are going to be on the scrapheap at 27,28 or 29. They’ll be burnt out.

“People think in their own minds there is a rest period. But there isn’t. When Donegal were beat by Armagh, those players probably took the following week off. Then, the expectation on them was to come back into their clubs right away. And there is this idea that they have to go back to their clubs. And they feel they owe it to their clubs to get back in there as soon as possible. And when the club season ends now in a number of weeks time, those same lads will be back in with the county. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

Interestingly, Boyle says his former Tír Chonaill teammate, Martin McHugh, is the one man that ticks so many of the boxes he’s highlighting. The ‘Wee Man’ wasn’t nominated by his club Kilcar but he is yet to distance himself from the position, on the record.

Boyle says the three-person committee tasked with appointing the new manager needs to at least make that approach now.

“Martin McHugh – I would have thought he might have put his name forward. He’d have had that concern and understanding that it’s going to take a root and branch audit of everything to find some synergy in all of that, club and county. I think he’d be as good a candidate as anyone else, inside or outside of Donegal.

“The opportunity is there to still make that approach. It probably is now or never for Martin. It’s a professional position, it’s full time. Martin would be experienced enough to handle all of that. But if he doesn’t want it, he doesn’t want it.”

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