KEVIN Martin was sensationally sacked as Offaly senior hurling manager on Monday evening, paying a dear price for a shocking and traumatic defeat by Westmeath in the Joe McDonagh Cup on Saturday last.
The 3-18 to 0-14 defeat in Mullingar effectively ended Offaly's prospects of winning the Joe McDonagh Cup as well as leaving them in a desperate dogfight against relegation to the Christy Ring Cup.
While the manner of Offaly's defeat had stunned supporters, Monday's news that Martin and his backroom team were being replaced still came as a bolt from the blue. The County Board management committee acted with lightening speed as they announced that Offaly hurling folk hero, Joachim Kelly has been appointed as interim manager.
Kelly, a brilliant midfielder during a lengthy playing career and a winner of All-Ireland senior hurling medals in 1981 and 1985, managed Coolderry to an against the odds win in the Offaly Senior Hurling Championship last year and he has vast experience. The Lusmagh man has previously managed Wexford and Westmeath, was an Offaly selector in 1995 when they got to the All-Ireland final where they were beaten by Clare and has a wealth of experience in the club game.
In a fairly brief press release on Monday evening, the Offaly GAA County Board said:
“Following on from an Offaly GAA Management Committee meeting tonight, Kevin Martin and his Management Team have been replaced as the current Senior Hurling Management with immediate effect. The committee would like to thank Kevin and his team for their commitment and effort over the last 2 years.
“Survival in the Joe McDonagh Cup competition in 2019 is essential for the long term development of hurling in the county. To this end Joachim Kelly has been appointed by the management committee as interim manager to the end of this year’s Joe McDonagh Cup competition. We wish Joachim and his team the best of luck in the upcoming games.”
It was an abrupt end to Kevin Martin's two year reign as manager. The Tullamore man, an All-Ireland senior hurling medal winner in 1994 and 1998, took on the job during a testing time for hurling in the county. He tried to instill passion in the squad and demanded total commitment but it was far from a trouble free reign.
He made a bright start with a great win over Dublin in the National Hurling League last year but it generally went downhill after that. Despite their best efforts, Offaly were not competitive in the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship last year and ended up being relegated to the Joe McDonagh Cup.
He found himself at loggerheads with football clubs in the county last year when senior hurlers opted against playing early rounds of the club football championship to concentrate on their county hurling commitments. While Martin denied that he had instructed players not to play football with their clubs and said it was their own personal decision, clubs were up in arms over the decision and the manager was in the eye of their fire.
This year, things went downhill further as Offaly suffered relegation to Division 2 of the National Hurling League, a shocking blow to the prestige of the game in the county. There had been a delay to Martin's appointment as manager last year as him and the County Board struggled to agree with a backroom team and other issues.
It ended with two coaches, Martin's fellow Tullamore man Damien Fox and Tipperary's Declan Fanning being appointed but Fox departed after the league with the board saying it was because of “work commitments” - the strength and conditioning coach, David Hare had also departed during the league.
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