Former Irish soccer manager Mick McCarthy famously remarked in 2002 amid the Roy Keane, Saipan debacle that his “backside was on the bacon slicer.”
The same could be said of several Gaelic football managers as we brace ourselves for a bumper-weekend of qualifier action.
Kildare’s Cian O’Neill is currently overseeing the worst losing run in the the county’s history.
The Lilywhites travel to Derry on Saturday in the hope of securing a first win in almost 12 months, having lost every game in Division 1 of the league.
O’Neill’s side crashed out of the Leinster championship in what the Moorefield man described himself as a “catastrophic” and “humiliating” defeat to Division 4 side Carlow.
There has been a furious reaction by supporters within the county and the trip north surely represents the former Kerry coach’s last opportunity to salvage what is left of his reputation.
Former Kildare star John Doyle this week agreed that the challenge for O’Neill is a monumental one in order to get a performance out of a team that never seemed to recover from defeat to Armagh in last year’s championship.
“The challenge now going into the weekend is to get those boys chomping at the bit, go up to tear into Derry and see where that takes them. Kildare are fighting for their lives, who’s going to step up to the plate?”
While Derry themselves have had a difficult year, falling down to Division 4 of the league, they have been bolstered by the return of their Slaughtneil contingent.
On the back of a credible performance against Donegal in Ulster, the Oak Leaf men will relish the opportunity to put the final nail in the O’Neill coffin.
Kieran McGeeney has never won an Ulster championship match as manager of Armagh.
Defeat to Fermanagh in the opening round of this year’s championship represented a fourth successive fall at the first hurdle.
The former All-Ireland winning captain now faces a trip to Westmeath as he finds himself under increasing pressure to produce results for his native county.
While McGeeney often captures the imagination of the media, the Mullaghbawn man has failed to produce results as a manager, ousted in Kildare after failing to win silverware (O’Byrne Cup excluded) over a six-year period.
While ex-Armagh manager Paul Grimley believes that progress in the Orchard County has not been what was expected, he acknowledges that his former number two has faced several obstacles along the way.
“I expected them to make more progress but Kieran has had a very tough time with players coming in and out, not being available and leaving panel for whatever reason,” said Grimley to the Irish News.
While Armagh supporters may not be happy with the defeat to Fermanagh in the provincial championship, drawing a decimated Westmeath in the first round of the qualifiers may just be the tonic to keep McGeeney in the hot-seat for another while.
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte perhaps finds himself in similar shoes to that of former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
The longest-serving boss in the country, who delivered Sam Maguire in 2003, 2005 and 2008 has the respect of many but his refusal to deviate from a rigid, defensive gameplan has seen him come in for severe criticism in certain sectors.
An Ulster championship defeat at the hands of Monaghan has pushed Tyrone down the qualifier route again, with former captain Sean Cavanagh launching a stinging attack on Harte’s tactics.
The Moy man, who won three All-Irelands under Harte, claimed that the current system has left Tyrone’s most talented attackers “without room to breath” as the boss persists with a counter-attacking, running game.
According to former Tyrone forward Brian McGuigan, the knives are already out for Harte within the county as the Red Hand have struggled to mount a serious All-Ireland challenge in recent years.
“There’s no point in hiding behind the facts that there is politics going on there, that some factions of the county board maybe don’t want Mickey there,” said McGuigan to reporters.
“There’s a lot of Tyrone people that don’t want Mickey there,” he added.
Tyrone face a tricky away assignment against a Meath side reeling from defeat to Longford, one which they will still be expected to navigate.
Failure on Saturday or realistically failure to break into the top four could see Harte forced into making a dignified Wenger-like exit at the end of this year’s championship.
Senior columnist for GAA Wrap.