Monday, October 09, 2006

THANKLESS TASK

When I were a lad of but eighteen winters a man who nowadays serves on the backroom team at $hels presented me with a Player of the Year trophy. The diminutive masterpiece - not me, the statuette - has long since been consigned to the Trophy A&E, as it awaits a new prosthetic limb. I fear the queue is too long though, and have voiced my concerns on the delay to Hary Marney.

I knew the man personally, played alongside him on occasion. The words which preceded the presentation have oft times echoed around the cobwebbed corridors of my cranium. 'You only get out of football what you put into it...' It's an aged, jaded adage which may be successfully applied to most of life's travails. But as a teenager who was in love with the white mitre - the ball, not the bishop's wand - it never occurred to me that I was putting anything into football.

The game is full of pitfalls and disappointments and a resilient spirit as much as the twinkling toes is a necessity for any successful player. The recent and relatively unheralded guillotining of Adrian Fitzpatrick brought all of this to mind. There stands a man who has had to manage a club with his head in the stocks.

Back in February at the glitzy launch of the imminent new eL season- I had the salad- the former Kilkenny City boss was ushered to the stage along with that man of few words Damien Richardson, and the nearly Bohs manager Pat Fenlon. I genuinely didn't know who the man was until his introduction. He seemed uncomfortable in the spotlight and found it difficult to sound like he was looking forward to the upcoming season.

There he was, representing his guppy club beside two stingrays. His club had given Pat Scully a managerial leg up, and the Rovers boss had taken the cream of the playing staff away with him. Fitzpatrick was to say, 'there's only one player left from last year's panel, and he wasn't even what you'd consider a regular'. This then was the launching point for his fledgling managerial career. It consisted mainly of relying on bigger clubs to loan him young players, along with whatever a trawl would yield.

All things considered, the Cats made a reasonably good start. Christy Doran was banging in the goals. So much so, that John Gill reeled him back in to Dundalk. Their cutting edge removed, things were only going to become more difficult for the Marble City side. The magnanimous machine, which is presided over by that fairy godmother of charities and lost causes, Olly Byrne, supplemented the City ranks with Gary Deegan.

It was never going to be anything other than a learning curve for the loan players; an uphill walk with a bungee around your waist for the manager. Results began to worsen- reports mentioned the 8 consecutive defeats as the catalyst for the novice managers departure. The Kilkenny City stats would not be bedtime reading for the meagre quantity of faithful fans.
They reflect the lowest average attendance across both divisions, hovering around the 120 mark. Money is tight for the Cats. Even the managerial behemoth that is Steve Staunton would struggle to put his imprint on the club.

Fitzpatrick made a dignified exit, wishing the club well for the future; interestingly he remarked that during his short stewardship they 'introduced a lot of good young players to the club, who will go on to have excellent careers in the league. Unfortunately we weren't able to get the rewards our efforts deserved.'

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