It started out with tears and it ended that way too. Donegal GAA is in turmoil and Paddy Carr is the latest fall guy in what has become a series of unfortunate events, a steady and unseemly unravelling of the county’s glorious All-Ireland winning era.
Carr was Donegal manager for just 149 days. He was in charge for only eight games.
His resignation comes less than two months after Karl Lacey quit as head of the county’s Academy – a thorny issue that continues to rumble and for which the county board has called a special meeting for Thursday night to discuss the fallout.
Since Michael Murphy announced his retirement last November, Donegal have stumbled from one predicament to another, like a hapless Sideshow Bob standing on rakes at every turn. Sideshows, there have been too many.
The indications are the Donegal players had expressed to Carr a lack of support for his management. So, before matters escalated, he walked.
In his brief statement, Carr said: “Following a discussion with some senior members of the Donegal football team, I want to announce that I’m stepping away from the position of Donegal team manager with immediate effect.
“I want nothing more than the best for Donegal and that will never change.”
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It is believed Aidan O’Rourke and Paddy Bradley, who were part of Carr’s management team, will take charge for Sunday’s league clash away to Roscommon.
Donegal are bottom of Division One, with just one win from their six opening league games, and are poised to fall through the relegation trapdoor. But the problems stretch far beyond the dressingroom door of the county’s senior footballers.
Just 11 years on from that glorious 2012 All-Ireland success, none of the key architects remain involved. Jim McGuinness, the manager back then, offered to help with any new set-up that was appointed, but nothing ever materialised. Murphy, the 2012 captain, has retired. Lacey – 2012 Footballer of the Year – has quit as head of the Academy while across the border, Rory Gallagher, Donegal assistant manager 11 years ago, currently has Derry humming.
One wonders if Carr’s fate inevitable from the start?
He was only appointed on October 24th, following a clunky and protracted process. The inclusion of O’Rourke on his ticket felt like an arrangement of necessity to get the appointment over the line.
On November 16th, Murphy retired. Before Carr ever got motoring, his team had lost its Rolls-Royce engine.
On February 3rd, Lacey stepped down as head of the Academy. A few days later, in support of Lacey, the academy coaches also walked away.
On February 28th, Donegal GAA released a statement saying they ‘reluctantly’ accepted Lacey’s resignation.
Against the backdrop of all off-field drama, Donegal’s senior team – who were missing some key senior players because of injury – struggled to find form. Their only league victory came in their first match, beating Kerry.
Afterwards, Carr gave several emotional interviews, trying to hold back the tears as he spoke about the pride it gave him to help bring about some joy for the people of Donegal. In the moment, it felt like a weight had lifted off Carr’s shoulders too, as if he knew his tenure needed a positive start, a spark. But it never caught. The flicker never became a flame.
Paddy Carr, it seems, was a victim of being the wrong man at the wrong time.
Perhaps this is the bottom now, perhaps the only way is up for Donegal. Or perhaps not. Perhaps the unravelling has a way to run yet.