The timing is probably a bit odd, coming as it does a few days before the seniors take the field for the first time in this year’s Connacht championship and close to three months since the U21s made their exit from the championship at the provincial semi-final stage, but it was announced earlier on today that the county’s U21 manager for the last two years, Niall Heffernan, has decided not to let his name go forward for reappointment in the post. A rather lengthy statement has been released by the County Board confirming this news – here.
As the Board says in its statement, despite all the hard work put in by Niall and his backroom team over the past two years, the U21s didn’t get the results everyone would have hoped for at this level during his time in charge. There seemed to be plenty done in terms of prep, with the county taking part in the Hastings Cup for the last two years and a fair few challenge games lined up in the lead-in to the championship but it was all to no avail as our long barren spell at this level – which stretches back all the way to when the current senior management team were at the reins at U21 – continued unabated.
The County Board now needs to take a step back and have a right think about what kind of management team is needed to reinvigorate us at U21 level. Next year should see several of the lads from the All-Ireland minor winning team from 2013 coming to the fore at U21 level and so 2016 has to be earmarked as one where we should be aiming to make a long overdue breakthrough at a level that’s been a happy hunting ground in the past for the county. The first step on this road, surely, has to be the appointment of a heavy-hitter as the new U21 manager. I wonder would Stephen Rochford still be interested in taking this on?