The 2018 season is winding down and already clubs are planning for next year. In some cases they are planning on contesting the 2019 campaign with a new manager – we learnt this week that Owen Hearyand Gerard Lyttle will not be re-appointed for the new season at Shelbourne and Sligo Rovers respectively. Add to that the many managers who left their positions during the season [we got through four at Bray] and you see a merry-go-round ramping up to full swing.
Heary’s exit from Tolka Park and Lyttle’s from The Showgrounds surprised me. I thought both would still be in place next year. Having been a regular at Tolka Park this season I thought Shelbourne had a good campaign. Obviously promotion wasn’t achieved but they only missed out narrowly, exiting the play-offs on penalties to Drogheda United after one of the most exciting games I’ve seen all season. His status as a club legend from his playing days had him in good standing with the fans too, always a plus.
Shelbourne did win the Leinster Senior Cup – for the second-successive year, and their final standing in the First Division was impressive. They finished third, having lost the least amount of games of any team in the division  and finished with the best goal difference in the division [+31]. David O’Sullivan also won the divisional golden boot with 15 strikes in the league, and James English [this year’s Player of the Season at Tolka] was also in double figures on 11.
Having kept Sligo up last year, navigating them through the choppy waters that saw 3 teams relegated, Lyttle hasn’t been involved in a relegation fight this year. Obviously this has been the result of Bray occupying the automatic relegation spot from start to finish, and Limerick always looking the most likely to land in the play-off position. A few more points and Lyttle could have had Sligo in the relativecomfort of mid-table alongside Bohemians, Derry and St. Pats rather than hovering in eighth. Such are the small margins that make up the minds of the powers that be.
Lyttle and Heary are football men through and through and up-and-coming young managers. I think if they’d kept their roles for 2019 it would have seen them push their clubs on. Now their clubs have to go back to the drawing board and start afresh. The new man will want to change things. That will take time. Will it prove worth it or would the clubs have been better off not pushing the eject button?