Steven Miller looks at Sean Dempsey’s removal as Laois senior football manager.
Sean Dempsey’s reign as Laois senior football manager is over but the search is now on for his replacement. Laois GAA officials this week begin the process of finding his successor and it’s hoped that the next manager will be in place for the knockout stages of the local championship.
Dempsey will be obviously disappointed that he didn’t receive the backing to stay on but it always looked unlikely that he would pull through. A year ago he was given the benefit of the doubt but after a poor championship campaign again this year - save for a spirited 30-minute spell against Meath - this time there was no escape. Losing to Tipperary was the final straw. After that it was just a case of when the last rites would be administered.
It came last Friday after Dempsey and his backroom team had made a presentation to the five-man committee that are now charged with finding his replacement. Dempsey made a strong argument ro be retained for another year but when the executive convened shortly afterwards, they voted unanimously not to re-appoint him.
A short one-sentence statement was put up on the Laois GAA website that night. By acting last Friday, the executive took the lead. The soundings from the clubs suggested there was little support for Dempsey and Monday night’s Football Committee meeting wouldn’t have been a nice affair had Dempsey still been in situ.
By acting prior to Monday’s meeting, rather that reacting to what was said at it, the executive took sting out of it of Monday’s meeting. Dempsey was never going to survive so there was nothing to be gained by going back over a lot of ground that was covered 12 months ago.
Going purely on results, it’s hard to argue with the decision to drop Dempsey. They won just one game from six attempts in two years and it was the first time since the inception of the Qualifiers that Laois didn’t win a match.
Yet Dempsey has a lot of support among the players and privately they will acknowledge that it wasn’t Dempsey that kicked those 15 wides against Tipperary. Interestingly, the players weren’t canvassed for their views.
Dempsey was right when he said improvements were made from last year to this but it wasn’t as if they could really sink any lower. The attitude was better and the preparations were better but it’s inter-county football we’re talking about here so those things should be a given.
There was an element of bad luck to it all; Meath’s extra-time goal was a fluke and having to play an under-rated Tipperary team eight days after losing a replay, which was six days after a gruelling extra-time epic in Croke Park was always going to be tough. Any team would struggle with that schedule - look at Galway last week. It’s forgotten too that Tipperary beat Meath in the league, drew with Down and won a Munster U-21 title in the spring. Laois didn’t do any of that so the result wasn’t all that surprising and not as bad as some would make you believe.
The issue now is will this change improve the situation? A high-profile manager isn’t the answer (Galway and Mayo’s experience spring to mind) and Laois would find it hard to attract one anyway.
Pat Roe is the leading candidate although he wasn’t available for comment. Mick O’Dwyer wouldn’t comment when contacted, Mick Lillis reckons he’s unlikely to go down the same process again for a fourth time while John Mulligan says he hasn’t the time or the interest.
For Sean Dempsey, it’s a tough way to go out. He’s given great service to the county at all levels and deserved better for the work he put into it.
Expect to see him on a sideline again soon before long and expect him to learn greatly from this experience. His brother Mick hasn’t done too badly since he was booted out 12 years ago. This certainly won’t be the last of Sean either.
By Steven Miller, Leinster Express