The game looks over for Cunningham as team boss

ON OPPOSITE SIDES: Galway captain David Collins and team manager Anthony Cunningham are disconsolate in the immediate aftermath of last month's All-Ireland defeat to Kilkenny.
ON OPPOSITE SIDES: Galway captain David Collins and team manager Anthony Cunningham are disconsolate in the immediate aftermath of last month's All-Ireland defeat to Kilkenny.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

SPORTING unrest in the West stands on the brink of claiming two inter-county GAA management teams which featured at the business end of their respective championships. Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly have already stepped down in Mayo and the smart money suggests that Anthony Cunningham won’t survive in Galway either.

Player revolt is at the heart of both high profile disputes and while the Mayo football joint managers Holmes and Connelly resigned within days of the senior panel intimating their lack of confidence in them, the prospect of a quick solution to the Galway hurling crisis is receding as both sides prepare to dig in for the long haul.

The player mutiny in Galway appears to have caught local GAA officials and most supporters by surprise, especially after it came in the wake of Cunningham being ratified for a fifth year in charge by the County Board last Monday night week. It had been barely a month since he guided the Tribesmen to a second All-Ireland final in four years and looking likely winners against Kilkenny at half-time.

But there had been boiling discontent among the players for several months over Cunningham’s management regime. Matters initially came to a head when they lost heavily to Waterford in the league quarter-final at Walsh Park in late March with only the relative close proximity of the championship preventing a heave against the Galway set up.

Cunningham also took on board the players’ grievances and, initially, the atmosphere in the Galway camp improved. As the team progressed through the championship, especially after their terrific All-Ireland semi-final triumph over Tipperary, it appeared to all intents and purposes that a united dressing-room was on the brink of delivering the Liam McCarthy Cup back West for the first time since 1988.

But their failure to drive on in the second-half against Kilkenny, leading to the county’s sixth consecutive All-Ireland final defeat, contributed to the re-opening of old wounds and the players finally bit the bullet in overwhelmingly passing a vote of no confidence in Cunningham just days before his appointment for a fifth year was due to come up for ratification by the Board.

Just 24 hours before that meeting, the Galway manager was met by a delegation of four players comprising of team captain David Collins, vice-captain Andy Smith and two members of the players leadership group, Joe Canning and David Burke, to inform him of the mood for change among the squad and that they had lost faith in his ability to take them further.

For more revelations and insight from John McIntyre, read this week’s Connacht Tribune