Leitrim manager Hugh Donnelly pictured with his players after last Sunday's loss to Kildare Picture: Willie Donnellan
It is a question every inter-county manager gets asked at the end of a campaign - are you staying on for another year? And although he said the decision is up to the Ladies County Board, you know that Hugh Donnelly would love to take Leitrim all the way to glory.
Asked about his own future, Hugh stressed that the decision will be made after a chat with the Ladies Board, even if he is eager to stay on! “I started this project and I’d like the opportunity to finish it. I personally feel I have lots to offer in terms of the level of professionalism we’re going to bring and there are things we would like to work on from last year, the level of accountability.
“I’m more than happy to stay on but I have to speak to the boss here, my wife Kerrie. The backroom team, the players, the committee, partners, we have all committed to this and that is one of the reasons Kerrie made sure I got to the game because she, like me, has invested so much in this.
“It is something that I’ve started, I’d like to have the opportunity to push on and try to finish it out, assuming everybody is happy, players, executive, county board - there is a lot of permutations, there are a lot of ifs and buts.
“There has to be a conversation with the County Board and the Executive to make sure they are happy with everything, to move forward. Today is not the day to be commenting on any of that because it is still raw but I’m sure the County Board have got to decide and I’m sure they’re happy to keep moving forward and then decisions have to be made.”
But you sense that Hugh is already planning for next year’s campaign: “No matter what happens or who takes over in due course, there is a nucleus of players who still have so much to offer, the experience that they have. I personally think we have a fantastic blend of youth and experience - we have girls who have been there and done that and we have girls who are coming through.
“There are still a few that could come in, players who were in and players who want to come see the potential that is there. We’re very close and it is going to take a little bit more time and a little bit more patience.”
Hugh also paid warm tribute to the players, his backroom team, the Ladies Board and Executive, the clubs of the county and the partners and families of everyone involved: “Without all this, and this is what I talked about before about a jigsaw, all these people have a part to play in the success of Leitrim. The manager gets a lot of the praise but this backroom team deserves it too, the hours they have put in, right down to everyone who deals with the food and the physios, a massive thank you.
“The players themselves, their wives and husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends, parents of some of the younger girls, without all of them, we wouldn’t have been able to give the commitment over the last 18 months to get where we are. The players - when they committed to something, they really did, the worked really hard, right down to the girls who didn’t get as much game time. They still had to make the sacrifices, to get off work and change their lives around .”
Hugh also thanked the team sponsors and Gotham DryWall of New York in particular for their support over the last two seasons: "All this wouldn’t have been possible without number one, our sponsors so a massive thank you to all our sponsors, especially Gotham DryWall who invested when things weren’t going well. A massive thank you to the clubs not only for releasing their players but also for releasing their grounds throughout the year, they have been immense. The County Board and the Executive deserve a lot of thanks and praise as well, it is not an easy job to do. "
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