So Gareth Cronin is gone, within days of agreeing a new one-year contract extension. A week is a long time in the League of Ireland.
Waterford United have had more managers than Newcastle and Man City combined since the old ‘FC’ was reconstituted. Twenty-five since 1982, in fact, including permanent and caretaker appointments. And the GAA community think continuity is hard to come by.
I can hear the calls for Jimmy McGeough’s return already. Stranger things have happened, and probably will. However, Cronin was hamstrung from day one and whoever takes over better not be allergic to Paracetamol. They’ll need the patience of Jobe and the loaves and fishes powers of Jesus H himself.
Whatever the arguments about the job he did, Cronin’s application and dedication was admirable in the face of the club’s hopeless financial position. Serial wage cuts, frequent long-distance commutes and not even an assistant to share what became an intolerable burden.
As he says, it was akin to being put in charge of the Department of Health. Except Mary Harney is on €250,000 a year plus perks, with more programme managers than you can shake a stethoscope at – and she’s still presiding over a hapless healthcare system that dispenses more press releases than vaccines.
With the credit crunch kicking in, already-cash-strapped clubs are in turmoil. And, whatever John Delaney or Frank Gavin might say, it’s going to get an awful lot worse before it gets better.
The FAI chief executive, who signed some new sponsorship deals on Monday but was unable to secure a big name to replace Eircom for next year’s league, concedes “there’s no hiding from” the fiscal irrectitude gripping the game in this country, though he insists that the past season saw “some good things on the infrastructure front.”
The goal now is to try to instill “greater financial stability” among the League’s 22 members. However, haven’t we heard that before, like when the FAI took over the running of the League? And if clubs couldn’t get their houses in order during the ‘Celtic Tiger’ years, what hope have they now that creditors’ claws are out.
Delaney insists that the economic constraints won’t exempt clubs from their obligations. “There’s no excuses if you can’t pay your employees”, he says, demanding more realistic budgets, enforced by greater checks. “The FAI didn’t sign a player this year, the clubs signed all the players,” he asserts. True, but clubs don’t have Denis O’Brien to help pay an Italian millions of euros a year to manage them either.