AS somebody who recently departed Kildare to take over from John Foley as Sports Editor of the Carlow Nationalist there has been a lot to learn as I find my way around what to me is a new county but at least now I’ll have a familiar face in the form of new Carlow football manager Niall Carew.
The appointment of the former Waterford and Sligo manager, and Kildare selector, may have come out of the blue for many Carlow supporters but I can assure them, this is a good appointment by the county board.
Carew is a former inter-county hurler who enjoyed great success with his club Coill Dubh around the turn of the century. He comes from a family steeped in the GAA and such is the esteem that father Tony was held in throughout Kildare, the Senior Hurling Championship trophy in Kildare was renamed in his honour after his sudden passing in 2012.
Carew turned to coaching at a young age after his career was curtailed by injury and had some success at club level, and also with Maynooth University. However, he really came to prominence when he joined Kieran McGeeney’s management team after the Armagh man was appointed Kildare manager ahead of the 2008 season.
Under McGeeney, Kildare became one of the best teams in the country. That era of Kildare football is sometimes looked upon as a failure because Kildare came so close to landing silverware at provincial and national level without actually doing so.
However, the years before and since show that it truly was a golden era for Kildare football as they played some of the most exciting football around whilst competing with the very best teams.
The way sport is, a manager takes a lot of credit for things when they go well and a lot of the blame when they go wrong but in truth, management teams are a lot more nuanced than that. Backroom teams have seemingly grown year on year and everybody plays their role and has their part in a team’s success or failures. That is certainly the case of Carew with Kildare and he was a key part of the Kildare team of that time. Specifically, he had the role of coaching the forwards at a time when Kildare were scoring more than most. Indeed, Kildare outscored the rest of the country in the Championship for three years in a row during that time. Carew is credited with coming up with, what was at the time, a highly innovative 2-2-2 formation in the forward line and it paid dividends in spectacular fashion.
His desire to lead a team of his own saw him leave McGeeney’s side after five years and take over Waterford for the 2012 season. Things weren’t always easy in a county where football played second fiddle but they came ever so close to a massive upset in the 2013 Qualifiers against Galway and his success can perhaps be judged on the fact that the players pleaded the county board to try get Carew to change his mind when he decided to move on after two years.
Three years with Sligo followed and his best win during that time came in 2015 when they beat Galway to reach the Connacht Final. Again, he left of his violation, and was actually offered a fourth year by the Sligo county board but he had to turn that offer down due to work commitments.
Since then, he has been around the club scene in Carlow, where he brought Palatine to the 2018 senior final, and most recently in his native Kildare as selector with Naas.
He has always been a popular figure among players wherever he has gone and for Carlow players who are willing to put in the commitment and effort needed they will find a manager who is willing to do whatever it takes to maximise their potential.
I’ve sat in press boxes with Niall and worked on radio with him and have seen the way he can read a game, spot what is going wrong and more importantly, offer solutions to try fix those issues. He has a keen eye and a smart football brain.
The 2020 season, if it goes ahead, will be difficult for Carew and Carlow. They will only have a month together before the league resumes and six weeks before the start of the Championship but over the course of the two year team I have no doubt that Carew will prove to be a very astute appointment by the Carlow county board.