The worst kept sports secret this year was officially revealed last night as Jason Ryan was confirmed as Kildare’s senior football team manager for the 2014 season after his appointment as Kieran McGeeney’s successor as county manager was confirmed at last night’s (8 October) monthly meeting of the County Board in Newbridge.
Ryan’s name, as expected, was the only one put to club delegates for ratification and, after a brief debate, the 37 year-old recieved the full backing of all clubs present. The Wexford native has been a handed a three-year term, as proposed by County Chairman John McMahon who oversaw the search for a new boss, but at Ryan’s own request there will be a review of his tenure at the end of year one before any further commital from either party.
It ends the most embarrassing chapter Kildare GAA’s recent history, which saw clubs round on the County Board over whether McGeeney should be re-appointed.
Pointedly McGeeney’s parting statement, disclosed to Leinster Leader, made to mention of the County Board.
Ryan worked with Kildare last year after joining McGeeney’s backroom team as a coach/selector last December ahead of this year’s campaign that yielded an O’Byrne Cup triumph and a Division 1 league semi final, although a heavy defeat to Dublin ended the Lilywhites’ provincial championship hopes, prior to Tyrone knocking them out in Round 4 of the qualifiers.
From the outset Ryan was widely tipped as McGeeney’s likely successor after the latter was unceremoniously dumped from the hot-seat after six years in charge at last month’s County Board meeting following a vote amongst the county’s clubs, that despite some of the County Board Executive favouring his retention.
Interestingly, just hours before Ryan’s latest appointment, McGeeney himself made a rapid return to inter-county football when he was confirmed as Paul Grimley’s No 2 in his native Armagh, the county he represented with distinction and who he captained to All Ireland glory in 2002.
The make-up of Ryan’s backroom team has still to be confirmed, although John McMahon did reveal that it is Ryan’s intention to surround himself with an all-Kildare support team, that is also likely to see Damien Hendy and Morgan O’Callaghan return to their respective roles.
Ryan has a decent wealth of inter-county management experience under his belt, having managed the Wexford footballers for five years, during which time he led them to two Leinster SFC finals - both lost to Dublin - as well as an All Ireland semi-final appearance.
According to McMahon, Ryan was one of ten potential candidates for the position, which initially stood at 16, before it was whittled down to three (former Mayo star Kevin McStay, who managed Roscommon outfit St Brigid’s to this year’s All Ireland Club SFC title and, if we are led to believe, former Kerry All Ireland winning manager Jack O’Connor, being the others).
With Kildare unable to return to collective training until 1 December, Ryan’s first date as Kildare boss will likely be to take in this Sunday’s county final between Moorefield and Sarsfields in Newbridge.
However, unlike McGeeney this season, Ryan will not take charge of the Kildare U-21s, even though both U-21 and senior panels will work closely with one another during the forthcoming season.
A new U-21 boss, as well as a new minor manager, will be confirmed in the coming weeks, that after McMahon admitted defeat in his quest to have names for consideration for both positions in time for this week’s meeting.
The County Board, together with the Hurling Board - which will seize to exist in its current state at the end of the year under new GAA legislation - are also working together in order to fill the position of Kildare senior hurling manager, with it presently unclear if current incumbent Willie Sunderland will return for a fourth year.