"Give me a bib, i'll make you a team"

A review of Bainisteoir - Hurling, by Kieran Shannon

"Having in a previous life at Championship Manager guided the likes of Wolves, Newcastle and Sunderland to European glory and made galacticos out of Nii Lamptey, Seth Johnson and Joleon Lescott, I felt it was reasonable to skip the beginners level here and start at advanced. Anything else, judging by the detail outlined in the instruction manual, and it would take another lifetime to play this at master level.

Waterford were the beneficiaries of such Capello-like nous and experience, and after a few heavy sessions in Tramore, started a series of challenge games with a 2-17 to 0-15 win in Parnell Park. The first sign though that this wasn't going to be a stroll to Croke Park was when days later Eoin Murphy and Brick Walsh requested that they leave the panel. I persuaded both of them to stay on after drawing up an individual programme not just for them but everyone in the panel, yet after another comprehensive win over Westmeath, I overheard Aidan Kearney complain about my management style.

After consulting with my highly-rated coach - what a waste of space, and at €75,000 a year, a waste of money, he was - I spent a full two hours further doctoring a programme for each panel member for the following two nights in Tramore alone. By now, the mindblowingly impressive attention to detail of this game was dawning (you can programme your midfielders to solo X percent of the time, shoot Y amount of the time, and deliver the ball in Z amount of the time), but in my wisdom decided to wait until the start of the league before going into detailed match tactics, bar the obvious one of aiming every second puckout to Dan The Man.

And it seemed to work. I arranged a challenge game for Wexford Park and thanks to 1-5 each from John Mullane and Paul Flynn, beat the hosts 4-12 to 3-14. Though our ranking had dropped from 6th to 9th and the team's confidence level had dipped as its skill level and fitness increased, Capello here felt we were heading into the league in decent shape.

First, though, there was one last challenge game in Antrim. I thought about cancelling it, with Ken, Brick and Eoin Kelly all injured, but decided the trip might be good for the old bonding and a chance to try out fringe players like Clinton Hennessy's back-up. Big mistake. Flynn chose to sit on his hurley, Dan got cleaned out in the air; while Tom Feeney, our best defender up until then, was ripped to shreds by Paddy Richmond.

After 20 minutes a raft of changes had been made, and in my mind, to our training regime was well; perhaps our pre-season had been a bit too much Mike Mac instead of Justin Mac. But it was too late. On the bus back from our 4-15 to 1-10 defeat, a week before the league had even started, Capello here got the bullet.

The fact my successor would guide Waterford to relegation from the Liam McCarthy was small consolation. I didn't want to leave it like that, but to keep at it would have meant forsaking my daughter's christening, work with the Sunday Tribune, and the ultimate sacrifice, an episode of The Sopranos.

So I retired, due to that old perennial, work and family commitments. It's true what they say. It's a single man's game."

Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5.