MUCH OF THE focus over the next fortnight will surround the All-Ireland final replay between Dublin and Kerry, but behind the scenes counties around the country are quietly getting their houses in order for 2020.

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Michael Fennelly, Paul Galvin and Ryan McMenamin.

We may not technically be in the inter-county off-season yet but outside of the two football finalists, the rest of the county boards are busy plotting and planning for next season. 

The biggest upheaval is in Galway where All-Ireland winning hurling manager Micheál Donoghue unexpectedly left his post two weeks ago after reports of a disagreement with county board officials.

Football boss Kevin Walsh confirmed his exit this morning following a five-year stint in charge, which leaves the Galway county board faced with making two major appointments in the coming weeks.

All is not well at boardroom level in Galway following recent mismanagement of county board finances, but both positions remain highly attractive giving the talented players at their disposal. 

U20 manager Padraic Joyce, two-time Sigerson Cup winning UCD boss John Divilly would be the early frontrunners to replace him. Two-time All-Ireland winning Corofin club boss Kevin O’Brien is another contender who may fancy a shot.

Former Galway centre-back John Divilly has led UCD to two Sigerson Cup titles.

Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Former Corofin manager Stephen Rochford would be a popular choice with players and supporters but reports from Donegal today suggest that Declan Bonner and his entire management team have been ratified to remain in place for a further year, which would appear to rule the ex-Mayo boss out. 

The Cork hurlers are also on the look-out for a new manager following John Meyler’s resignation. Kieran Kingston and Donal Óg Cusack are among the big names being linked with the role. Similarly in Waterford, they’re still searching for Padraic Fanning’s successor – while Derek McGrath ruled himself out of contention last week. 

John Kiely has been handed a fresh two-year term in Limerick, Davy Fitzgerald is looking on the verge of a Wexford return with the Clare duo of Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor also set to reprise their positions for another campaign.

The expected appointment of eight-time All-Ireland winner Michael Fennelly in Offaly is somewhat of a gamble by the Faithful County given the 34-year-old’s inexperience on the sideline. Fennelly works as a strength and conditioning lecturer and was part of Cian O’Neill’s backroom team as their S&C coach in Kildare this season.

Last year he spoke about his eagerness to become involved in a coaching capacity on the inter-county scene and now he follows former team-mate Eddie Brennan into the hot-seat of a midlands county. His pedigree on the field of play should help Fennelly convince the best players in Offaly to make themselves available, which is a decent start. 

Fennelly is taking over an Offaly team coming off their worst season in decades. After hitting rock bottom in 2019, the only way looks to be up for this group as they face into Division 2A and the Christy Ring Cup next season. 

The managerial merry-go-round has been spinning on the football front too. 

Paul Galvin is set to take on his first managerial role when he’s ratified as Wexford boss in arguably the most fascinating move of all. Like Fennelly, Galvin was a proven winner during his playing career and has four Celtic Crosses to his name, but he’s also a newcomer to management. 

It’s believed he’ll bring former London chief Ciaran Deely on board as part of his management team, which should off-set Galvin’s lack of experience. The Kerryman is a deep thinker of the game and often comes at it from a different angle, as evidenced in his insightful Sunday Times columns. 

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Jack O’Connor managed Kerry minors and U20s in recent years.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Another son of the Kingdom taking up a position in Leinster is Jack O’Connor, the 58-year-old who managed his native county to three All-Ireland titles over two separate stints.

O’Connor was thought to be in the running for the Kerry senior job before Peter Keane was appointed last winter and he’s a major coup for the Lilywhites. O’Connor has links to Kildare given his sons play with Moorefield. He was involved under Ross Glavin during their run to the All-Ireland club semi-final in 2017/18.

If he can tempt Daniel Flynn back into the fray, then Kildare are still a top-eight team with plenty of young potential to be harvested from the U20 All-Ireland winning crop of 2018.

The Ulster championship has undergone a significant facelift too. Ryan ‘Ricey’ McMenamin is another serial All-Ireland winner from the 2000s becoming an inter-county boss for the first time.

He looks set to succeed Rory Gallagher in Fermanagh and will bring former Tyrone team-mate Joe McMahon in as part of his coaching package.

Rory Gallagher is on the verge of being appointed Derry manager.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Gallagher, meanwhile, is expected to be ratified as the new Derry manager in the coming days, making them the third Ulster county he’s managed. Legendary former Enda Muldoon is slated to join as selector and it will be interesting to observe how his footballing philosophy dovetails with the defensive approach Gallagher is known to favour.

Meanwhile, Seamus ‘Banty’ McEneaney is back in charge of Monaghan for the second time after seeing off competition from former Corssmaglen manager and Mayo coach Tony McEntee and ex-Cavan boss Mattie McGleenan.

Banty’s backroom team includes highly-rated S&C coach Peter Donnelly, who only recently departed the Tyrone set-up to take up a new role with Ulster Rugby. Ex-Down forward Conor Laverty is also part of the ticket, in addition to analyst Ray Boyne. Boyne was involved with Tipperary under Liam Sheedy this year and previously worked with Dublin footballers under Jim Gavin and Gilroy and with their hurlers for a lone season under Gilroy.

Seamus McEneaney managed Wexford in 2017.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

In the six years before McEneaney first took on the Farney job in 2005, they’d won just two Ulster championship games. Under ‘Banty’ they reached two provincial finals and ran Kerry to a point in the 2007 All-Ireland quarter-final. It laid the foundations for the heights that were to follow under his successor Malachy O’Rourke.

McEneaney brought Meath to within three points of Dublin in the 2012 Leinster final after surviving an attempted coup from the clubs earlier in the year. He stepped down following their qualifier exit to Laois and stayed out of the inter-county scene for four years.

He took charge of Wexford for an unsuccessful stint in 2017, led the Monaghan minors to the Ulster title and a narrow All-Ireland semi-final loss to Kerry in 2018 and managed the county’s U20s this year. 

Tipperary, Laois, Wicklow and London are the other football counties still searching for new managers following the departures of Liam Kearns, John Sugrue, John Evans and Deely respectively.

A number of counties will return to training next month as preparations begin for the 2020 campaign, even if the 2019 season isn’t in the rearview mirror yet.

Galvin, Fennelly and McMenamin show that even though becoming an inter-county manager is like taking on a second full-time job, it remains an attractive prospect for former players. 

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