By Martin Breheny
DUBLIN — The new GAA season has barely flickered to life and already it has produced its first major controversy. With the Church and General National League due to resume in mid-February, Cavan find themselves in another desperate search for a manager, having lost Liam Austin in divisive circumstances.
Austin stood down last week following a major bust-up between the players and the management team, which also included former Monaghan star Hugo Clerkin, who was the team’s trainer. The players passed a vote of no confidence in the team management, claiming that their training methods were not up to standard.
Initially, Austin and Co. stood firm, but as it became increasingly obvious that even if a compromise were reached, relations had strained to breaking point. So management felt it had no option but to step down. Now the search is on for a new manager just 12 months after the former Down midfielder took over in Cavan in succession of Martin McHugh, who resigned after the 1997 championship season, in which Cavan won the Ulster title.
The implications of the Austin controversy are likely to rumble on for some time. Austin was unhappy about the role of the County Board chairman, Brendan Keaney, and implied that he was involved in the plot to oust the manager. This follows claims that the chairman refused to leave the dressing room when Austin asked to speak to his players after their shameful 3-13 to 0-8 defeat in their final pre-Christmas League game.
Cavan gave a terrible performance that day and, from there on, attempts to dislodge Austin gathered momentum. The vote of no confidence by the players made it impossible for him to continue.
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Cavan played eight competitive games under Austin in 1998, winning five and losing three. They are joint second in Div. 2B of the National Football League after winning two of their three games, but, clearly, the players had grown unhappy with the management set-up.
However, many Cavan fans are left wondering if, in fact, the players were simply looking for scapegoats and found them in the form of Austin and Clerkin. Both had enjoyed distinguished careers with Down and Monaghan, respectively, but that counted for nothing once the players’ heave got under way.
The fear now is that Cavan will find it difficult to attract a top manager, following the successful ousting of Liam Austin. He is upset over the whole affair, but said that it would not put him off team management in the future.